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In pictures: What diving animals can teach us about the history of breathing

High concentrations of myoglobin in muscles allow diving mammals to hold their breath longer. By studying the lineage of diving mammals and their body masses, scientists were able to predict maximum dive times in living and extinct mammals

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The 2,200-kilogram Dorudon atrox, which lived 37 million years ago, has a muscle myoglobin of 2.1 per cent. It could spend 14 minutes under water without needing to come up for air.


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The 44-kilogram Pakicetus attocki, which lived 54 million years ago, had a muscle myoglobin of 0.6 per cent. It could spend only two minutes under water.


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The 45,000-kilogram sperm whale, whose muscle myoglobin is measured at 7 per cent, can spend 73 minutes under water without oxygen.


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