Do whales ever stop swimming?

Answered by Willie Powers

Whales are incredible creatures that spend a majority of their lives in the water. While it may seem like they are constantly in motion, they do indeed take breaks from swimming. However, these breaks are not your typical moments of relaxation. Let’s explore the question in more detail.

Do whales ever stop swimming? The short answer is yes, but they do so in a different way than we might expect. Whales, especially the larger species like the blue whale, need to keep swimming to stay afloat. This is because their bodies are adapted for life in the water, and their weight is supported by the buoyancy provided by their blubber, a thick layer of fat.

However, there is an exception to this rule when it comes to young whale calves. When a baby whale is born, it lacks the substantial layer of blubber that its mother possesses. This means that the calf does not have the same buoyancy and cannot stay afloat as effortlessly as its mother.

For the first few weeks of their lives, whale calves rely on their mothers to keep them afloat. The mother whale must swim constantly, providing physical support to her calf to prevent it from sinking. This constant swimming is necessary for the survival of the calf, as it is unable to swim on its own and would quickly tire and drown without its mother’s assistance.

While the mother whale tirelessly keeps her calf afloat, the newborn calf has a unique advantage. It has the ability to sleep and rest both brain halves simultaneously, unlike most other animals. This is known as unihemispheric slow-wave sleep. During this time, the calf can enjoy a long and much-needed rest, even while being supported by its mother.

Imagine being a young whale calf, nestled against your mother’s side, being carried effortlessly through the water. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a deep and restful sleep, knowing that your mother’s constant swimming will keep you safe and afloat.

While whales do need to keep swimming to stay afloat, there are exceptions when it comes to young calves. The mother whale’s constant swimming is necessary to support her calf, allowing it to rest and sleep during this crucial period of its life. It’s a beautiful example of the unique adaptations and behaviors of these majestic creatures.