|Two humpback whales feeding in Monterey Bay|
Whales, like humans, are mammals and must breathe air, right? Because we live on land, we don't have to worry about breathing when we sleep. But whales, how do they do this?
Scientists believe that whales don’t sleep at all like humans because they must “think” at all times about breathing.
“…unlike fish, whales do not have gills which fish use to extract oxygen from the water, so (whales) must come to the surface get their oxygen.”
“Depending on the species whales are able to hold their breath anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour.” That means that whales are always aware of their breathing and need for oxygen.
So, whales must always think breathing—even when asleep—because if they ignore their need to surface and breathe, they would drown. This is called “conscious breathing.”
Fortunately, marine mammals have very special lungs. The can bring in more oxygen from the air than humans.
Learn more on Whale Facts.