'Super-spy' dolphins can stay alert for 15 days even in sleep

Last Updated : 04 May 2018, 08:10 IST

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Dolphins could give James Bond a run for his money! 'Super-spy' dolphins sleep with only one half of their brains at a time, allowing them to stay constantly alert to danger for at least 15 days in a row, a new study has found.

Researchers led by Brian Branstetter from the National Marine Mammal Foundation found that dolphins can use echolocation with near-perfect accuracy continuously for up to 15 days, identifying targets and monitoring their environment.

They studied two dolphins, one male and one female, and found that they were capable of this task with no signs of fatigue for 5 days.

The female dolphin performed additional tasks for a 15-day period. How much longer they could have continued was not studied.

Sleeping with only one half of the brain at a time, or unihemispheric sleep, was believed to have evolved in dolphins to enable them to breathe at the surface of water even when half-asleep.

This new research suggests that the need to remain vigilant may also have played a role in the evolution of this sleeping behaviour.

"These majestic beasts are true unwavering sentinels of the sea. The demands of ocean life on air breathing dolphins have led to incredible capabilities, one of which is the ability to continuously, perhaps indefinitely, maintain vigilant behaviour through echolocation," said Branstetter.

The study findings are published in the journal 'PLOS ONE'.

Published 18 October 2012, 08:40 IST

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