How long can Whales hold their Breath?

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

The answer depends on what type of whale we are talking about. Smaller whales like the harbor porpoise can only hold their breath for about 1 to 5 Minutes! More giant whales like the bowhead whale can hold their breath for around 40 minutes.

The answer depends on what type of whale we are talking about. Smaller whales like the harbor porpoise can only hold their breath for about 1 to 5 Minutes! More giant whales like the bowhead whale can hold their breath for around 40 minutes.

It’s important to note that whales have a wide range of tolerance and that most species don’t hold their breath for as long they could. A Beluga Whale can only maintain its Breath for about 20 minutes max, while Blue Whales can save their Breath for up to 90.

The amount of time a whale can hold its Breath is dependent on blood flow to the rest of its body. The heart rate of a whale slows down so much that it’s able to circulate oxygen around their bodies at a languid and necessary pace.

Whales can store over 60% of the oxygen they breathe in their muscles and red blood cells. On the other hand, humans only use 30% of the oxygen that we breathe, meaning that if your lungs were as efficient at storing oxygen as a whale, you would be able to swim around the world 7 times non-stop!

The average human can dive to 33 feet for over 2 ½ minutes without suffering from the effects of the bends (decompression sickness). On the other hand, whales can dive much more profound and more prolonged with no ill effects.

Type of WhalesLongest time Underwater
Beluga Whales13 Minutes
Sperm whales90 Minutes
Curved Beak Whales138
Blue Whales90 Minutes
Killer Whales15 Minutes
Humpback Whales45 Minutes
Bowhead Whales40 Minutes

How do whales control their breathing?

whale underwater

Whales have many more cells in their brains than humans do, so their brain is much larger. This gives the whale the ability to control its breathing better than humans by only taking a breath every five minutes, thus avoiding unnecessary oxygen consumption and reducing CO2 waste.

Whales also have a large spleen which filters out the lactic acid (a product of anaerobic metabolism); this prevents the whale from getting fatigued.

Whales are very efficient swimmers, they don’t waste their energy on unnecessary movements as humans do, so they move much faster. Whales also have a large tail which provides propulsion through the water. Some whales can even use echolocation to find food.


How do whales go so long without breathing?

Whales are cold-blooded mammals, and so their internal temperature is the same as the surrounding water. Water holds more oxygen in its liquid form. Whales can hold their breath for much longer than humans because they can get the oxygen they need from their surrounding water.

A whale can store about 10% of its body weight in oxygen; this could be as much as 1 ton for a giant whale!


How do whales sleep without drowning?

Whales do not have gills like fish, and so they can sleep without drowning. Whales sleep with just half of their brain; the rest keeps awake by taking a breath every few minutes. On the other hand, Dolphins can sleep with both halves of their brains but need to rise to the surface to Breath.


How do whales eat without drowning?

Whales can shut down half of their brain when they eat, allowing them to breathe and consume food simultaneously! Some more giant whales can even float on the surface of the water while holding a mouth full of fish. 

The whale would then swim down into the sea and back up again, using its tail to propel itself. These whales also have unique grooves in their throat, which allows them to swallow their catch without choking!

The shape of a whale’s body also helps it swim faster through the water, as it can change direction quickly by flicking its tail. The front part of the whale also acts as a large hydrofoil, helping propel it through the water.

A sperm whale’s head is round, so it can accelerate quickly when trying to catch its prey. Sperm whales also have larger than average eye sockets that are filled with oil. This helps them when navigating underwater at night using echolocation!


How do whales drink without breaking their teeth?

giant whales

Whales have developed a method of drinking which prevents them from damaging their sensitive teeth and gums. They do this by sucking the water up into their top jaw and then using large muscles to push it down into their bottom jaw. The whale then closes its mouth to force any remaining water out (much like a fish does).

Whales that feed on large schools of small fish and squid can filter the water for their catch using their baleen plates. These filters look like a comb with lots of thin bristles. The whale then forces all the water out, keeping its prey behind. This method of feeding is referred to as ‘skimming.’


How do whales breathe at the bottom of the ocean?

Deep-sea diving mammals, like sperm whales, have large amounts of myoglobin in their blood. This gives them oxygen-rich blood, so they can survive when there are low oxygen levels around. Whales also have much lower blood pressures than humans, so their blood can carry more oxygen around the body.

Whales also have a slower metabolism than humans because they are warm-blooded and do not sweat. This means that whales do not need to breathe as often when at the bottom of the ocean, with less air present. Whales can hold their breath for up to 138 minutes!

A whale can also use blood from its tail to send more oxygen around the body when diving. This is called ‘shunting,’ allowing the whale to stay under for long periods.


FAQ:


How long can Killer whales hold their Breath?

Killer whales can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes.

Which animal can hold its Breath the longest?

The animal that can hold its Breath the longest is sea Turtles. They can hold their breath for 4/7 hours!

Do whales die of old age or drowning?

Dolphins, porpoises, and whales are all mammals which means that they give birth to live young. They also have hair, suckle their young with milk, and care for them for years. This means that they can’t breathe with only the top half of their body like a fish can, so if they drown then, they will die.

How many times per day do whales breathe?

This depends on how often they need to, but some species may take breaths from time to time even if they don’t need them. Whales spend about 20 minutes a day breathing.