Enclosed in a neon orange plastic shell, a set of electronic sensors bobbed alongside the surface of the Monterey Bay, waiting to be retrieved by Stanford University researchers. A lunchbox-sized speck within the vast waters, it held a cargo of outsized significance: the first-ever recording of a blue whale’s heart rate.
This device was fresh off a daylong experience on Earth’s largest species—a blue whale. Four suction cups had secured the sensor-packed tag close to the whale’s left flipper, where it recorded the animal’s heart rate via electrodes embedded within the center of two of the suction toes. The small print of this tag’s journey and the heart rate it delivered had been revealed Nov. 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Evaluation of the information means that a blue whale’s heart is already working at its restrict, which can clarify why blue whales have by no means advanced to be greater. The information also recommends that some uncommon features of the whale’s heart would possibly assist it in carrying out at these extremes. Research like this add to our elementary data of biology and also can inform conservation efforts.
Wanting on the massive image, the researchers assume the whale’s heart is performing close to its limits. This will likely help clarify why no animal has ever been bigger than a blue whale—as a result of the energy wants of a larger body would outpace what the heart can maintain.
Now, the researchers are hard at work, including more capabilities to the tag, together with an accelerometer, which might help them better perceive how totally different actions have an effect on heart rate. In addition, they wish to attempt their tag on different members of the rorqual whale group, such as fin whales, humpbacks, and minke whales.