Have you ever wondered why whales and dolphins have to come to the surface to breathe? Unlike fish, whales and dolphins can’t breathe underwater. In fact, they are more like humans than fish when it comes to breathing. Both of these aquatic mammals have lungs for breathing air (which they do through what it is commonly known as a blowhole). Despite this inability to breathe underwater, these mammals, along with many others, are capable of holding their breath underwater for long periods of time.

Photo by Robert Nunn

What mammal can hold its breath underwater the longest?

In 2014, the Curvier beaked whale broke the record for the mammal that could hold its breath underwater the longest.The longest dive was recorded at 2 hours and 17 minutes. It was previously thought that elephant seals could hold their breath the longest, with a record of 2 hours.

Although they aren’t mammals, sea turtles hold the record for the animal that can hold its breath the longest underwater. When resting, sea turtles can stay underwater for days. On average, sea turtles can hold their breath for 4 – 7 hours. Green sea turtles can hold their breath for as long as five hours, whereas Loggerhead sea turtles hold the record for the longest documented dive, remaining underwater for longer than 10 hours.

How do humans compare?

Compared to these amazing aquatic mammals, humans still have a long way to go. Freediver, Aleix Segura Vendrell from Spain holds the record for longest held breath at 24 minutes, but the average human can only hold their breath for up to two minutes.

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