Research Finds How Diving Mammals Evolved Underwater Endurance
by PhysOrg staff
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have shed new light on how diving mammals, such as the sperm whale, have evolved to survive for long periods underwater without breathing.
The team identified a distinctive molecular signature of the oxygen-binding protein myoglobin in the sperm whale and other diving mammals, which allowed them to trace the evolution of the muscle oxygen stores in more than 100 mammalian species, including their fossil ancestors.
Myoglobin, which gives meat its red colour, is present in high concentrations in elite mammalian divers, so high that the muscle is almost black in colour. Until now, however, very little was known about how this molecule is adapted in champion divers…