Dive Reflex

dive reflex

The mammalian diving reflex optimizes respiration to allow mammals to stay underwater for a long time. It is exhibited strongly in aquatic mammals (seals, otters, dolphins, etc.), but exists in a weaker version in other mammals, including humans. Diving birds, such as penguins, have a similar reflex. Every animal’s diving reflex is triggered specifically by cold water contacting the face – water that is warmer than 21 °C (70 °F) does not cause the reflex, and neither does submersion of body parts other than the face.

Also, the reflex is always exhibited more dramatically, and thus can grant longer survival, in young individuals. Beyond the effect of the reflex when submerged in water, the reflex is used consciously in ‘splashing cold water on one’s face,’ either to relax when upset or wake up when drowsy. Additionally, the reflex is also elicited through water boarding torture, in order to create the sense of drowning upon the individual.

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One Comment to “Dive Reflex”

  1. According to the Wikipedia entry for Death: “People found unconscious under icy water may survive if their faces are kept continuously cold until they arrive at an emergency room. This “diving response”, in which metabolic activity and oxygen requirements are minimal, is something humans share with cetaceans called the mammalian diving reflex.”

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