Why Don’t Whales Get The Bends?
You may have heard that whales get decompression sickness when they dive deep and rise to the surface. But it’s divers who experience these effects. This is because of how long they spend at different depths, which can cause nitrogen bubbles to form in their body tissues and blood vessels. Whales rarely stay still for more than a few minutes before surfacing again, so they don’t build up enough pressure to cause this problem.
Since they spend so much time at different depths, divers usually take time to rise and descend gradually. This is called the decompression stop, and it allows the gases in their body to slowly dissolve into their tissues again.
It’s also why drivers can’t stay underwater for longer than around an hour at a time- depending on what depth they’re driving at.
Whales don’t tend to spend as long underwater as humans either, as they’re constantly swimming through the ocean while eating or looking for food.
For example, after a female grey whale calf has been weaned from her mother’s milk by about six months of age, it will feed on small fish like pilchard and anchovy until migrating back up North and staying there all year.
As whales range in size from the 33-foot (10-meter) long and 16-tonne fin whale to the 190-foot (58-meter) and 150-tonne blue whale, they also vary in how deep they dive.
The sperm whale can dive to depths of 1000 meters (3280 feet), whereas the grey whale usually stays between around 30-90 meters (100 – 295 feet). So while some divers can stay underwater for up to an hour before ascending again, it’s unlikely that a whale would ever spend this much time down there.
Since these gentle giants have been swimming through all five oceans for millennia without experiencing decompression sickness, it’s safe to assume that it’s not a problem for them either.
This is good news for whale watchers in the future, as it means these magnificent creatures are unlikely to be bothered by this condition.
How Do Sperm Whales Not Get The Bends?
Since sperm whales dive around 1000 meters deep, it is very rare for them to get decompression sickness. Whales have been swimming through all oceans for millennia without this problem so they are unlikely to be affected any time soon.
How Do Dolphins Not Get The Bends?
Dolphins do not get the bends because they are high up in the water column. This is unlike humans who swim closer to the bottom or even surfers who briefly come into contact with the surface.
Whales like to eat at various depths, but it is unlikely that they will spend an extended amount of time below 100 meters which is where nitrogen bubbles may start forming.
How Do Marine Mammals Avoid The Bends?
It is unclear how marine mammals manage to avoid decompression sickness while they are diving deep. The air in their lungs does not appear to cause any problems, so it might have something to do with the fact that they have fewer blood vessels than humans or change the way they dive periodically so their bodies can adjust accordingly.
If you are wondering why marine mammals don’t get the bends, it is because they have fewer blood vessels than humans. This means that nitrogen bubbles may not form as easily in their bodies.
Whales also spend less time at different depths which means there’s little chance of them experiencing decompression sickness. If you want to prevent your divers from getting this condition, be sure to provide a gradual ascent or descent after periods spent underwater.