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A young Cuvier's beaked whale calf surfaces to breath alongside its mother. Credit: Brenda Rone, under NMFS permit #15330.

The Cuvier's beaked whale is the undisputed champion of the long, deep dive. In a study released this week, Erin Falcone and her team recorded a record-shattering dive: one whale held its breath for an astounding two hours and 43 minutes.

"When I first saw the data, I thought 'is there any limit to what this animal can do'?" Falcone tells Axios. (When she recorded a two hours and 17 minute dive in 2014, she said, "it blew us out of the water.")

How they do it: The whales have a number of adaptations to help them hunt beneath the waves. They can almost empty and refill their entire lungs in a single breath. When humans breathe, oxygen is taken from our lungs via a protein called hemoglobin in our blood. Whales have hemoglobin, too — but they have a lot more of it. Both also have myoglobin, another oxygen-storing protein, in their muscles. Cuvier's beaked whales have more myoglobin than most diving mammals and far more than humans. "Their muscles are almost black with myoglobin," says Falcone.

The whales have other ways to conserve oxygen: on deep dives, they temporarily shut down their liver and kidneys and pull blood from their extremities. Their ribs collapse and fold, which helps remove air pockets and makes it easier for them to dive. The whales don't need to swim to reach those depths: they just hold their breath and sink into the black.

Go deeper

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

Updated 7 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.