The Beluga Club; Half a Mile beneath the Arctic Surface, the Restaurant for Male Whales Only

Daily Mail (London), September 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

The Beluga Club; Half a Mile beneath the Arctic Surface, the Restaurant for Male Whales Only


Byline: JENNY HOPE;DAVID DERBYSHIRE

IT is the most exclusive men's club in the world.

Half a mile down in the icy darkness of the Arctic Ocean, male whales gather to chew the fat and feast, far away from their womenfolk.

The bizarre segregated eating habits of the Beluga whale were revealed for the first time yesterday by scientists who have found astonishing evidence of the extent a male will go for a good meal.

He is able to swim underwater for 21 minutes without surfacing for air - four minutes longer than the smaller female. As a result, he has discovered a site just out of reach of his partner where polar cod and halibut flourish.

The female, meanwhile, has a women's only site in a different gulf where she takes her offspring to feed.

The men-only restaurant located 600 yards down in Viscount Melville Sound near Bankside Island in the Canadian Arctic - was revealed at the British Association's annual science festival in Leeds yesterday.

The Beluga is not alone in astonishing scientists, who are reaching new depths of discovery with the help of sophisticated electronic tags that allow the animals to be tracked over long distances. The elephant seal, they have found, can reduce its heart rate from 120 beats per minute to just one and spend up to two hours underwater after a three-minute refuelling of oxygen at the surface.

Professor Mike Fedak, from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University, said the feat should not be possible on current biological understanding. 'We can estimate the oxygen stores they have on board and the rate at which they are used,' he said. …

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