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calendar   Sunday - June 20, 2010

Group Nap

Ya kin larn somethin new every day!

Here’s today’s bit of arcanery, a not-guaranteed sure-fire conversation starter from the I never even thought about asking file. But since this is Father’s Day, I’m sure you dads (and moms) out there have been asked this kind of question many times before, so here’s the answer:

Sperm Whales Sleep Vertically

Often In Bunches


image

nap time for Moby and his buds



Scientists believe that Physeter macrocephalus [the sperm whale], which can measure up to 60ft in length and which has the biggest brain of any known animal, sleeps in a highly distinctive manner. According to researchers at St Andrews University, who tagged animals with recorders to follow their behaviour underwater, the sperm whale sleeps by taking short naps during slow, rhythmic dives. The animals are unconscious for no more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time over a few hours, however, and sleep, in total, for fewer than two hours a day. Thus sperm whales sleep less than any other wild mammal.

Unlike dolphins, which have been observed in captivity sleeping with only one side of the brain at a time, sperm whales switch off completely during these dives, the researchers added. “Many mammals show species-typical sleeping behaviour, such as dogs circling before lying down, lending support to the idea that sperm whales sleep during these drift dives,” says Dr Patrick Miller, of the university’s sea mammal research unit.

When napping, they tend to float just below the surface, and just bob along, sometimes sinking a little bit. They come up to breath once in a while, without really waking up. When they do come up, just the end of their nose sticks up, because the sperm whale has his blowhole on the front, off to the left, unlike most other whales who have blowholes more towards the middle.

image

A whale of a nostril. Um, blowhole. Eeeeww, giant whale boogers!!

The wind was picking up a little bit and Joao put me in the water very far away from them, up wind. I slowly drifted towards the group. They had stopped moving at all and I drifted into a group of slumbering giants. Most of them standing head up, some head down. The biggest one, maybe 15 meters long, was now just two meters away looking at me. Minutes passed and her head-up position made her a bit more approachable. Then she closed her eye as if going to sleep. While eyes shut she surfaced in head up position and blew her lungs clean right beside me. The sound was just awesome and made all my limbs feel like jellyfish. Water sprinkled over me like rain.
I spent 50 minutes together with the whales. They were acting like they were resting in each other’s company. They were completely silent, most of them hovering, but some swam momentarily under me, up to me, away from me. And I swam around amongst them. They just let me be there. I ended up at some point far down current and quickly lost contact with the group. It was over.

It is thought the research shows that sperm whales sleep much less than any other mammal on land or sea. The whales were recorded consistently performing the dives in each location which the study suggested indicated it was stereotypical for the entire species. Video footage showed six sperm whales eerily floating vertically in a motionless manner, with their heads either at or just below the surface of the sea.

Researchers said three of them were “unusually non-responsive” to the approaching boat, until it accidentally touched one of them.

Whole brain sleep, possibly REM. But only for a few hours a day. Do whales dream? Maybe so. Of what? Beats me.


Want more?

I suppose a h/t to Theo is in order, as I found something like the first picture there. But I looked up the rest of it.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 06/20/2010 at 02:55 PM   
Filed Under: • Amazing Science and DiscoveriesAnimals •  
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