Beluga whales often swim in shallow waters at depths that barely cover their bodies. In general they are not thought of as deep diving marine mammals, but they are capable of making deep dives and staying under water for as long as 15 minutes. Why are they able to do that?
Like other marine mammals, beluga whales possess a number of physiological adaptations that we humans do not have that allow them to dive to deep depths and stay under water for longer periods of time than we can.
During dives beluga whales have a slower heart rate. Also, while diving, blood is shunted away from tissues in their bodies that can tolerate low levels of oxygen towards the heart, lungs and brain where more oxygen is needed. Beluga whales possess more oxygen in their blood than most other animals. And, last, but not least, the muscle of belugas has a high content of an oxygen-binding protein called myoglobin. This protein stores oxygen and prevents muscle oxygen deficiency.
All of these adaptations enable the beluga whale to conserve oxygen while under water and do something we humans can only do through artificial means.
The marine mammal caregivers at Marineland know the animals well. For example, one caregiver, Tali, has worked with a beluga whale for seven years. “To see him going from this younger animal, who was just learning to do things, to this animal who has a huge behavioral repertoire, is really fascinating” said Tali.
The video shows our caregivers and belugas during one of their husbandry training sessions. The husbandry behaviours taught to our marine mammals include presenting their fins or mouth for inspection. Learning and practising these behaviours make the animal more comfortable when it’s time for our veterinarians to examine them or carry out a necessary medical procedure.
Sea lions love to have fun! “For sea lions, their play is based on each other,” explains Dan Macdonald, marine mammal caregiver. They are very social animals so the supervised play is perfect for them. Toys are added to these play sessions to enhance the experience for the animals.
Now, even though playtime is important, so are daily check-ups. Dan Macdonald explains that the sea lions are examined daily. Daily check ups include inspecting their bodies, mouths and teeth.
Check out the video to see the marine mammal caregivers interacting with Marineland’s sea lions:
Everyone at Marineland Canada was grinning ear to ear today when we saw the Toronto Star’s reporters gushing over the visit from animal ambassadors from Seaworld in Orlando. My goodness,those penguins are cute, healthy, happy and more than that! The visit clearly illustrated a successful opportunity to educate people who might never meet, let alone, interact with these amazing creatures in the wild. The Star has railed at places like Seaworld and Marineland for several months. It was nice to see they have obviously changed their minds. – http://www.thestar.com/life/travel/2013/01/31/penguins_visit_toronto_star_newsroom.html