How To Breathe Underwater Like a Mermaid

In this installment of my “mermaid-a-month” series, I’d like to share an interesting piece of news I recently discovered. I know I promised to cover mermaid art this month, but I decided to save that for May (also known as MerMay—the month in which artists everywhere share their mermaid art online) because it would be more appropriate.

So. What is this bit of news? Well if the title is any indication, it’s how science is slowly but surely actualizing the possibility of being a mermaid.

In this article, it is stated: “Scientists have made a breakthrough that could save patient’s lives and open up the possibilities for underwater exploration.”

Essentially, a tiny micro-particle (roughly 3 micrometers) was created that can be injected into the bloodstream, oxygenating blood without any help from the lungs. These particles contains three to four times more oxygen than human red blood cells, and they can allow humans to live up to 30 minutes without breathing before respiratory failure occurs. Though originally created for medical purposes (to prevent brain damage or organ injury from oxygen deprivation), it also opens the door for military uses or solutions to air pollution.

Or, you know, being a mermaid. There’s also that. Imagine being able to swim in the ocean without breathing for three times as long as a dolphin could. Or sit at the bottom of a pool for half an hour, watching the light dance on the tiles.

And this discovery was several years ago. Recent reports indicate these micro-particles are continually being used to save lives in hospitals and prevent environmental pollution by letting a crew fix underwater damage to oil rigs without scuba equipment. I can only imagine how this will continue to progress as it becomes more well-known.

Also, there appear to be no known negative side effects from it. In this article, they are described as a minuscule capsules of small bubbles of oxygen surrounded by a layer of lipids. Meaning that as long as they are injected in regulated amounts, they are completely harmless.

Now this is much different from perfluorocarbon, a breathable liquid which holds just enough oxygen for us to breathe it in safely for short periods of time. While perfluorocarbon sounds cool, the transition from breathing it in to breathing in actual air can be painful, since your lungs have to push the liquid from them. Which is why it’s (apparently) been used as a torture device, similar to water boarding.

But to focus on the matter at hand…

Perhaps saying “breathing underwater” is misleading, since technically, this advancement in science allows you to simply hold your breath for extended periods of time. But either way, it certainly has a wide range of possibilities, and I would love to experience it myself one day.

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

Why Mermaids Could Exist (and more about various ocean anomalies)

Believing that mermaids exist may seem childish, but believing in a lot of things seems childish until you’re shown the science to back it up.

So that’s why I’m here today. To give you the science. Or rather, some factual information to support these theories. Now I’m not implying that you should believe in mermaids, because I make it a habit to not tell people what they should or shouldn’t believe in. However, what I’d like to do is provide some reasons as to why it’s not unrealistic to think their existence is valid. And true to my nature, I have included links to reliable sources below. Also, fair warning: I focus a lot on the Deep Sea zone, because it plays an important role in my theorizing. It’s also just a very fascinating marine biome.

But to return to the topic at hand:

Perhaps the greatest reason that mermaids could exist is that 95% of the ocean has been unseen by human eyes [1]. That’s right—even though the ocean covers more than 70% of planet Earth, we’ve only explored ~5% of it. And of course, mermaids don’t have to be ocean-dwelling creatures. They could exist in lakes, ponds, swamps, and more, which leaves more places for them to be discovered.

This is also good reason for why any water-based cryptid could exist. The Kraken, the Leviathan, and the Megaladon could all be living at the bottom of the sea in dark trenches and giant caverns, as completely oblivious to our presence as we are to theirs.

But really, that’s being theoretical. What isn’t theoretical is the undeniable appearance of the mermaid myth across different cultures and history. As seen in my previous post found here, mermaids first appeared as deities in Assyrian mythology between 700 b.c. to 1000 b.c. But it is said that mystical female entities were shown in cave paintings even earlier than that, in the late Paleolithic period about 30,000 years ago, which is when modern humans  gained dominion over the land and began to sail the seas. [2]

For a common mythological figure to appear in cultures and historical remnants across the world can mean a number of things, as any historian and anthropologist will tell you. It indicates an intermingling of stories and cultural values over time, interactions due to international trade and travel. However, it also is indicative of the fact that mermaids could exist around the world, hence why people around the world would create artwork as well as spoken and written legends about them.

Now theoretically, if mermaids did exist, it would be likely that they exist in the Deep Sea zone (600 feet/183 meters below the surface). So consider the fact that deep sea gigantism—a phenoma that caused the gigantic makeup of sea creatures dwelling on the sea floor, like with Japanese spider crabs, colossal squids, and different types of isopods—could mean if there were mermaids dwelling on the ocean floor, they could be the size of a whale.

beharkei: “Mermaid by Sergey Kolesov ”

(this beautiful piece of artwork is titled “Mermaid” by Sergey Kolesov)

Deep sea gigantism is influenced by pressure, or to be more specific, a combination of Bergmann’s Rule and Kleiber’s Law.

Bergmann’s rule is “an ecogeographical rule that states that within a broadly distributed taxonomic clade, populations and species of larger size are found in colder environments, and species of smaller size are found in warmer regions” [3]

Kleiber’s Law is “the observation that, for the vast majority of animals, an animal’s metabolic rate scales to the ¾ power of the animal’s mass” [4]

The results?

The Japanese Spidercrab, as aforementioned:

Image result for japanese spider crabs

The Colossal Squid:

Related image

(they can grow up to twice the length of a school bus)

And large isopods:

Image result for large isopods

The Deep Sea really is a wild place. It is extremely cold (about 4º C) and dark because of the lack of light, and most creatures are generally transparent or a brownish-black because of it. It’s home to Gulper eels, Snaggletooth fish, Sloane viperfish, and Angler fish.

And to continue the discussion of interesting ocean oddities, let’s not forget about brine pools, which are essentially pockets of seawater that are very salty and therefore denser than the surrounding water. [5] Because they exist on the seafloor and have distinct surfaces and shorelines, they often look like small lakes within the ocean (think of Goo Lagoon from Spongebob).

There’s also Sea Sparkles, which sound as fantastical as mermaids. Sea Sparkles, also known as Noctiluca scintillans, are small, non-parasitic, species of dinoflagellate that appear bioluminescent when disturbed. They can be found all over the world, often along the coast, in estuaries and shallow areas that receive lots of light, which facilitates the growth of the phytoplankton on which the Sea Sparkle feeds. [6]

They look like this:

Image result for sea sparkles

Magical, aren’t they?

So yes, sea sparkles aside, mermaids could exist in the real world. Unfortunately, they probably wouldn’t look like we expect them to look—as in, feminine and beautiful. If those pictures of isopods and eels aren’t indicative enough, merpeople are likely to be very large and more fish than human. They would probably appear quite frightening.

How frightening? Next month I will be covering mermaids in art, and I will be including all manner of spooky sea maiden pictures.

And remember, most of my reasoning is theoretical. I am not a marine biologist or anthropologist, so here is a very interesting article from a more reliable source about why mermaids couldn’t exist. It is (not surprisingly) more scientific than mine.

What do you think? Could mermaids exist?

© 2017 Obliquity of the Ecliptic