How do hippos breathe Underwater?

  • By: Alex
  • Date: July 29, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

The hippopotamus is an incredible aquatic mammal; it shuts off its lungs to avoid drowning when it dives underwater. The reflex mechanism that activates this response allows for a steady supply of oxygenated blood so they don’t lose consciousness before resurfacing again.

The hippopotamus is an incredible aquatic mammal; it shuts off its lungs to avoid drowning when it dives underwater. The reflex mechanism that activates this response allows for a steady supply of oxygenated blood so they don’t lose consciousness before resurfacing again.

The Hippo is one of the only animals that can shut off its breathing mechanism, ensuring they have oxygen-rich blood circulating through their body at all times. They do this by reflexively shutting down their breath when diving into deep waters without ever losing consciousness or control over any other bodily functions as most mammals would.

The way hippopotamus dives underwater may be an odd sight to some people – but it’s not as strange if you know how well adapted these creatures are for living in and near water! 

When they dive under the surface, many aquatic animals, including seals, will hold onto air bubbles so that there won’t be gaps in time where our lungs aren’t receiving much oxygen from inhaling. 

However, because of specific adaptations made throughout history, the hippopotamus doesn’t need these air bubbles and can switch off its lungs completely.

They don’t need to hold onto bubbles like most other aquatic mammals because of particular anatomical adaptations that allow them to dive underwater for long periods without having to surface or worry about not getting enough oxygen.

How long can a hippopotamus stay underwater

The first thing many people think of when they hear “hippo” is that these animals are hefty, but most people don’t realize that the species actually have one of the lowest densities of any animal in their size range.

One reason for this is because hippos’ bones are incredibly light, with a hollow interior; another reason is that their lungs and heart are located very centrally in their chest cavity – so that when they submerge, all of the organs are still above the water.

When hippos have to breathe air, they can come up to the surface with minimal effort and take in fresh oxygen; this behavior isn’t very different from when they’re underwater; in fact, they can do this abruptly because of their design airway passages.

Unlike most mammals that force air out all at once through their windpipe to breathe, hippos can hold their breath for a long time before exhaling; they inhale and exhale oxygen in bursts, using breathing intervals that are a lot shorter than most other mammals of their size.

Due to these fascinating adaptations, hippos can stay underwater for long periods without having to resurface.


How long can a hippopotamus stay underwater?

The hippopotamus breathes air at the water’s surface. They are amphibious mammals, meaning they live on land and in water to swim underwater for 5 minutes before coming up for air. When hippos stay underwater for a short period, their body absorbs oxygen through their skin from the water. (like a dolphin).

How do hippos stay underwater for so long without breathing?

By the time they are four months old, babies have already been taught by their mothers how to use this method of staying underwater. They simply surface for air when they need to breathe and dive back down after only a few seconds. However, it has been observed that adults tend to stay underwater for as long as 5 minutes, but mainly the amount of time they underwater vary between 5 and 8 minutes.

What do hippos eat underwater?

Hippos spend most of their daytime in the water, either grazing on grasses or simply lying around and resting. But when hippos are hungry, they can search for food underwater.

When hippos come to the ground to drink water, it is usually when their prey is sleeping and will not see them coming. Hippopotamuses are nocturnal animals meaning they sleep during the day and eat at night, so most of their activity does happen underwater.


How do hippos not drown?

They have developed many features that allow them to live and breathe underwater. Hippos do not close their nostrils when they dive underwater, so the water can enter their nose when they take a breath.

Their lungs are made from elastic muscles rather than rigid or soft tissue. Think about the skin elasticity on your head or arm; hippos have a similar system in their lungs that allows them to stretch as they’re taking in the air underwater.

Hippopotamuses also have slow heartbeats and breathe only six times a minute while underwater, allowing them to hold their breath for so long.

These adaptations have developed to allow hippos to live in a very narrow environment – the river.

What are some other animals that use this breathe-while-underwater method? Other animals with similar features are dolphins, seals, and manatees. They all sport large lungs, slow heartbeats, and hold their breath underwater for long periods.


How does a hippo breathe in the water?

How does a hippo breathe in the water

Hippopotamus has nostrils and small mouths, so they can close them when they dive under the water. When hippos eat grass underwater, they use their lips to grasp the submerged plant and pull it towards them with their tongue. During this time, they are inhaling air into their lungs.

Are hippos dangerous in water?

Yes, although they aren’t as dangerous Underwater. Hippos are very territorial and will protect their territory using aggressive tactics and hazardous water or land. When hippos are swimming underwater, they can move up to 20 miles per hour, so if you’re in a boat and a hippo is lurking nearby, it’s best to get out of the water quickly. Hippos also have very sharp teeth, so you don’t want to be brushing up against them as they could seriously hurt you!


Which animal can hold its breath the longest?

The animal that can hold its breath underwater the longest is the sea turtle. The sea turtle can hold its breath for over seven hours; the elephant can only stay underwater for over two hours.

How dangerous hippos are?

Hippopotamuses aren’t as ferocious on land as they are in the water, so I would say they are the least dangerous on the ground. Hippos can dash into shallow water when they feel threatened and then attack the intruder using their massive jaws with sharp teeth, which could easily rip your skin.


Do hippos sleep underwater?

Do hippos sleep underwater

Hippos are capable of sleeping while in the water. Hippos are accustomed to moving around on land, but swimming is a whole different story!