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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

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!