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How long bottlenose dolphins can hold their breath?

a dolphin jumping out of the water

Before we get into how long dolphins can hold their breath, let’s talk about why they have to do so in the first place.

Unlike most sea creatures, dolphins cannot breathe underwater as they lack a vital piece of anatomy, gills. In fact, dolphins have lungs just like we do.

This means they must breathe oxygen in from the air rather than in the water.

Much like humans breathe in air through their nostrils, dolphins have a blowhole, found at the top of their head, that serves the same purpose.

Dolphins also breathe oxygen from the air because they’re mammals. This means we actually share a few characteristics with these animals.

For instance, they are warm-blooded, maintain a constant body temperature, dolphin babies are born alive, and they have a complex brain.

Alright, now to the good stuff, how long can dolphins actually go without breathing?

Believe it or not, bottlenose dolphins can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes! However, they typically come up to the surface 2-3 times per minute.

This ability is very useful in allowing them to have enough time to dive and catch food.

You may be wondering, if humans and dolphins both have lungs, why are dolphins able to hold their breath for so much longer?

Well, this is due to multiple reasons. Primarily, dolphins have a better ability to preserve oxygen than humans.

When they dive, dolphins slow their heart rate and conserve blood mainly for the brain and the heart, which need the most oxygen.

Additionally, other tissues in the dolphin body have the ability to store oxygen for short amounts of time.

Other Mammals that Can Hold Their Breath

So what other mammals can hold their breath and for how long?

Your first thought may have been humans. Unlike dolphins, most humans can only hold their breath for about 30 seconds to a minute.

On the other hand, a more impressive contender is the whale. Whales, much like dolphins, have the ability to conserve oxygen and can, in turn, hold their breath for up to 90 minutes!


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