Can Penguins Breathe Underwater?

Unlike animals that can actually breathe underwater, penguins don’t have gills. This factor alone should be enough to make you think that penguins can’t breathe underwater. Though penguins are perfectly adapted to an aquatic lifestyle, they cannot stay underwater forever.

A penguin’s diet consists mainly of small fish, krill, and other marine creatures. To catch their prey, penguins need to dive underwater. They are excellent swimmers, but like other birds, they need to breathe oxygen from the air.

How Long Can A Penguin Stay Underwater?

According to a recent study, the largest among all penguin species, the Emperor Penguin, is capable of diving underwater for further than 20 minutes without taking a breath. Thanks to a blood protein that has been determined in their bodies.

Other species can’t use all the oxygen in their lungs, even when they’re desperately gasping for air. That’s because their hemoglobin can’t efficiently bind with and transport oxygen when there are low concentrations of it. 


Penguins do need to surface for air, but they’re able to hold their breath for much longer than humans. They are one of the few mammals that can call the ocean their home. And even though they can’t breathe underwater, they’ve managed to adapt in ways that allow them to stay submerged for long periods of time.

We hope you learned something new today. Thanks for reading!