Humans and other mammals are similar in the fact that we all need to breathe air to live. While humans are able to hold their breath, most of us can only do it for a few minutes at most. Many marine mammals, such as whales and seals, or able to hold their breath for much longer durations of up to an hour.
How exactly these marine mammals were able to hold their breath so long has been a puzzle to scientists. A group of researchers has studied an oxygen storage protein present in the muscle of mammals called myoglobin and discovered that in whales and seals it has a special non-stick property. That special non-stick property allows the animals to store huge amounts of oxygen in the muscles without clogging the muscle up.
The team of researchers studied myoglobin and compared the protein from muscles of mammals including cows, otters, and the sperm whale. The study revealed that all of the mammals that are able to hold their breath the longest had myoglobin with the non-stick coating. “In this way we think the animals are able to pack really high concentrations of these proteins into their muscles and avoid them sticking together and clogging up the muscles,” said Doctor Michael Berenbrink.