Northern elephant seals are known for their impressive diving abilities, with the ability to stay submerged for over an hour and reach depths of up to 5,000 feet. But new research has revealed an even more impressive feat – these seals are capable of sleeping 1,200 feet deep under the ocean’s surface.
Elephant Seals have very few sleep hours a day, just two hours or even lesser sometimes, however, that is all they need to stay out in the deep ocean full day long.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, used high-tech non-invasive stick-on tags to monitor the sleep patterns of northern elephant seals as they hunted for food in the deep ocean. The research report was published in the journal Science.
The tags were attached to the seals’ heads and recorded their brain activity and movements as they dove to depths of up to 1,900 feet. For about seven months the team followed eight wild Northern elephant seals that spanned a journey of more than 6,200 miles recording the heart rate, brain activity, body position, and movement.
“We developed a scientific ‘signature for sleep’ by studying their behavior and physiology for many years,” said Ritika Mukherji from the University of Oxford.
The results were surprising – the seals were found to be sleeping for short periods of time, around 7 minutes on average, while they were deep underwater. This is a remarkable achievement, given the harsh conditions and extreme pressure that the seals are subjected to at such depths.
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The Northern elephant seals’ ability to sleep while diving is thought to be an adaptation to their environment. Hunting for food in the deep ocean requires long, extended dives, and the ability to sleep while diving allows the seals to conserve energy and stay alert for longer periods of time.
The study also revealed that the seals were more likely to sleep during the day than at night, which the researchers believe is due to the seals’ feeding patterns. Northern elephant seals feed on deep-sea squid, which are more abundant during the day.
The discovery of the Northern elephant seals’ ability to sleep while diving has important implications for our understanding of how marine mammals adapt to their environment. It also highlights the need for further research into the sleeping patterns of other marine mammals and the role that sleep plays in their survival.
The Northern elephant seals have been found to have the remarkable ability to sleep while diving at depths of up to 1,200 feet under the ocean’s surface. This adaptation allows the seals to avoid predators, conserve energy and stay alert for longer periods of time while hunting for food in the deep ocean.
The discovery sheds new light on the sleeping patterns of marine mammals and highlights the need for further research into this fascinating area of study.