How Long Can Dolphins Hold Their Breath?

The most common dolphins, the bottlenose dolphins, can stay submerged for a maximum of 20 minutes. However, this is a rare occasion as they usually come up to breathe every 2-3 minutes. 

Although dolphins live in the water, they cannot breathe underwater as fish do because they don’t have gills. Instead, just like humans, dolphins rely on lungs to breathe air.

How Do Dolphins Keep Air In Their Lungs?

One might wonder why dolphins, who have lungs just like humans, can hold their breath for such prolonged periods of time. One of the reasons dolphins can stay underwater for extended periods is that they’re able to save oxygen better than people.

When dolphins dive, they concentrate on providing oxygen to the brain and heart while lowering their heart rate to preserve blood. Some tissues in a dolphin’s body can also store oxygen for a limited time.

How Do Dolphins Breathe?

Given that dolphins live their lives in water as opposed to on land, they must breathe through their blowhole and not their mouth.They have developed separate holes for breathing and eating so that they can survive more easily. The blowhole is located on the top of the dolphin’s head and it closes off when a dolphin dives. When dolphins surface for air, they open their blowholes and expel stale air as well as water from their lungs.

Can Dolphins Drown?

Although dolphins have evolved significantly, they still cannot dive for long periods of time without coming up for air. If they stay underwater too long, they will drown. Furthermore, ocean pollution and fishing gear pose a significant threat of suffocation for dolphins. Thus, it is essential that any blockages in their migratory path are promptly removed.

Final Thoughts

Dolphins have adapted to their marine environment, allowing them to survive despite having lungs as opposed to gills. They can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes but usually come up to breathe every 2-3 minutes. Furthermore, the blowhole on the top of the dolphin’s head is essential for breathing and is particularly vulnerable to ocean pollution and fishing gear.