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Bottlenose dolphins © Christopher Swann

On the anniversary of the massacre of 1,423 dolphins, what’s changed?

One year ago today, 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, including mothers with calves and pregnant females,...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
A dolphin plays in front of the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay

Sharing our Spey Bay stories – tell us yours

2022 is Scotland's Year of Stories, a year in which stories inspired by, created or...
Orcas in Australia

Did orcas help rescue entangled humpback whale?

Kidzone - quick links Fun Facts Our Goals Curious kids Kids blogs Fantastic fundraisers Gallery...
An orca named 'Hulk' off Caithness, Scotland

My amazing week watching orcas in Scotland

Orca Watch's 10th anniversary event in the far north of Scotland was exhilarating with a...

Faroes dolphin hunt review – disappointing is an understatement

I wasn't alone in hoping that substantial changes would be made as a result of...
Minke whale - V Mignon

We told them this would happen! Time to halt cruel whale experiments

An ill-conceived and so far ill-fated joint US/ Norwegian experiment to test minke whales' reaction...
Sponging dolphin in Shark Bay

Dolphins who catch fish with shells

Kidzone - quick links Fun Facts Our Goals Curious kids Kids blogs Fantastic fundraisers Gallery...

Teflon-coated whales and dolphins?

How whales and dolphins can hold their breaths for long periods of time – the sperm whale holds the record with 90 minutes – has long been a mystery to scientists but finally, the answer has been found … they’ve got teflon proteins in their blood!

Ok, so not teflon per se, but these recent findings, reported in Science, describe how in marine mammals, a particular protein called myoglobin which binds oxygen in blood, has evolved over time to have ‘non-stick’ properties. Normally, at high concentrations, myoglobin stick together and stop working but over time, whales and dolphins have changed the make up of these proteins enabling them to pack huge amounts of oxygen into their muscles without them all clogging up. The trick? Their proteins are positively charged and therefore as with magnets, they repel each other. 

Not content with solving just the one mystery, this piece of the puzzle will be hugely beneficial elsewhere. It will allow scientists to go on to estimate dive times of the modern day whale and dolphin ancestors thereby learning a lot more about evolutionary biology and importantly, it may even aid medical research into some diseases like Alzheimer’s which is caused by proteins clumping together and stopping working. 

So, the next time you pick up your non-stick frying pan, give a thought to the whales and dolphins of this world – they got there first, in the name of survival and not just fried eggs!

About Nicola Hodgins

Policy Manager at WDC