Marine life is pretty vast and mysterious. We have only yet discovered about 3 percent of our oceans. So there is a large space left to our imaginations. Many species of aquatic life reside in the oceans. There are phytoplankton for trees, oxygen mixed with water for inhalation, sharks and whales for predators, small fishes for prey and many more. One of the curious things is….How do dolphins breathe?Well for that first we have to see what makes us,humans different from dolphins in the race of respiration
- Human respiration
Now, we are terrestrial animals and mammals. Our breathing when we sleep is slightly different from dolphins. We humans have our reflexes which makes us continue breathing even when we are unconscious (sleeping).Yes, the breathing is just 15 percent of when we are actually awake but the breathing process is automatic and continuous.
Now, dolphins are some interesting creatures.They are mammals, like us. So they don’t really have any bills like fishes do. Meaning they can’t breathe the oxygen which is dissolved in water but completely depend on atmospheric oxygen .Which is why they have to come up regularly, from the water to breathe in the oxygen. But the actual problem and the question arises when dolphins want to sleep! How does a dolphin breathe when it’s asleep? Anyways it has to breathe for his functions to work properly…
- When they are asleep
When dolphins sleep, they do something very interesting. For that we have to see the body structure of a dolphin. We all agree that a brain has 2 parts. So what happens is, dolphins have their left brain connected to the right eye and the right brain connected to the left eye. Basically, it allows one half of a brain to sleep at a time. So, only half of the brain is unconscious while the other remains awake. So, if the left brain is resting, and the right eye is closed, is the left eye still open? Yes! As the left brain is still awake,the right eye remains open. Don’t get confused:1. Left eye- connected to the right brain. 2. Right eye- connected to the left brain.
From: Jeremy Bishop
So if one pair of the brain and eye are sleeping, the other part remains awake and continues to do the normal activities like breathing. Sometimes, they can even be seen swimming gently and steadily while the other part remains unconscious. The dolphins cannot sleep in complete unconsciousness because then they will drown because they constantly need oxygen for staying alive. This process continues periodically until both the parts have rested and the dolphin continues to do it’s normal work.This process also has a name – unihemispheric sleep because they sleep with semi- unconsciousness. Meaning, only one brain sleeps at a time. Sometimes, it sleeps on the sea bed and arise constantly for air to breathe. Now, you never mess with a sleeping dolphin, because they are never completely unconscious and when you are disturbing them, the conscious part of Their brain and the unconscious part awakens , starting to chase you, and that will not be pleasant. According to EEG at average, a dolphin sleeps for probably 8 hours. That can be under water for about 8 to 10 minutes, maximum- 15 minutes.
Their nostrils are called blow holes which are present just top of their heads. They also have the ability to alter their surroundings.
Source:Photo by HAMID ELBAZ
Fun fact- After humans, dolphins come second in the property of the development of brain because they have complex abilities like problem solving, forming social groups etc.
Blow holes are closed when underwater. Hence, preventing the dolphins surviving, underwater. But haven’t they adapted themselves to grow gills and breathe? No, they adapted themselves to survive with this procedure. Well, good for us isn’t it?
But one should know that dolphins which are untrained (wild) are not to be played with. Cases can go up to lacerations (deep cuts) and broken bones as well. This is because wild dolphins like to kill just for fun. In fact, it’s in their emotions which have a property to kill or harm without any particular reason. It is advised that one must not act carelessly with Dolphins.
As usual, being precautions can be the only solution in front of a dolphin🐬