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Humpback whale playing with kelp

Why do humpback whales wear seaweed wigs?

Alison Wood Ali is WDC's education projects coordinator. She is the editor of Splash! and KIDZONE,...
Japanese whaling ship

WDC in Japan – Part 5: The meaning of whaling

Katrin Matthes Katrin is WDC's communications and campaigns officer for policy & communication in Germany...
Risso's dolphins off the Isle of Lewis, Scotland

Unravelling the mysteries of Risso’s dolphins – WDC in action

Nicola Hodgins Nicola is WDC's cetacean science coordinator. She leads our long-term Risso's dolphin research...
Save the whale save the world on a tv in a meeting room.

Saving whales in boardrooms and on boats

Abbie Cheesman Abbie is WDC's head of strategic partnerships. She works with leading businesses to...
Outcomes of COP28

Outcomes for whales and dolphins from COP28

Ed Goodall Ed is WDC's head of intergovernmental engagement. He meets with world leaders to...
Taiji's cove with boats rounding up dolphins to be slaughtered or sold to aquraiums

WDC in Japan – Part 4: A journey to Taiji’s killing cove

Katrin Matthes Katrin is WDC's communications and campaigns officer for policy & communication in Germany...
Blue whale at surface

Creating a safe haven for whales and dolphins in the Southern Ocean

Emma Eastcott Emma is WDC's head of safe seas. She helps ensure whales and dolphins...
We're at COP28 to Save the Whale, Save the World.

We’re at COP28 to save the whale, save the world

Ed Goodall Ed is WDC's head of intergovernmental engagement. He meets with world leaders to...

Teflon-coated whales and dolphins?

How whales and dolphins can hold their breaths for long periods of time – the sperm whale holds the record with 90 minutes – has long been a mystery to scientists but finally, the answer has been found … they’ve got teflon proteins in their blood!

Ok, so not teflon per se, but these recent findings, reported in Science, describe how in marine mammals, a particular protein called myoglobin which binds oxygen in blood, has evolved over time to have ‘non-stick’ properties. Normally, at high concentrations, myoglobin stick together and stop working but over time, whales and dolphins have changed the make up of these proteins enabling them to pack huge amounts of oxygen into their muscles without them all clogging up. The trick? Their proteins are positively charged and therefore as with magnets, they repel each other. 

Not content with solving just the one mystery, this piece of the puzzle will be hugely beneficial elsewhere. It will allow scientists to go on to estimate dive times of the modern day whale and dolphin ancestors thereby learning a lot more about evolutionary biology and importantly, it may even aid medical research into some diseases like Alzheimer’s which is caused by proteins clumping together and stopping working. 

So, the next time you pick up your non-stick frying pan, give a thought to the whales and dolphins of this world – they got there first, in the name of survival and not just fried eggs!