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How Long Can Dolphins Hold Their Breath?

Despite the fact that they spend their entire lives in the ocean, dolphins are not actually fish! Dolphins are in fact air-breathing mammals and need to be able to breathe in oxygen in order to survive. That being said, they are able to go long periods of time underwater by holding their breath, but how long can dolphins hold their breath?

Dolphins may not be able to hold their breath for as long as some marine mammals, but they certainly beat us humans who on average can only hold their breath for 2 to 2.5 minutes.

How long can dolphins hold their breath?

Dolphins can hold their breath, on average between 8 to 10 minutes but in rare cases may stay underwater for up to 15 minutes.

Unlike other marine mammals, like whales or seals, dolphins do not typically dive down very deep and therefore do not need to be able to hold their breaths for as long as their other mammalian counterparts.

How long can a baby dolphin hold its breath?

It is not clear how long baby dolphins can hold their breath, but it is likely not much less than how long adult dolphins can hold their breath. After birth, baby dolphins stay close to their mother so that they can feed, but also so that they can watch and learn how to do dolphin things.

For the first few weeks of their life, baby dolphins are still not experts in regulating their buoyancy and may pop up to the surface more than they mean to.

How deep can dolphins dive?

The deepest recorded dive made by a Bottlenose Dolphin was 990 feet deep. However, there is little information on how deep other species of dolphins can dive.

That being said, dolphins don’t tend to dive very deep and stick to more shallow waters and may regularly dive down to depths of only 15-30 feet.

How do dolphins breathe?

Dolphins breathe using their lungs, just like all mammals do. But instead of breathing through their mouth and nose, like most mammals do, dolphins breathe using a specialized nostril, called a blowhole at the top of their head.

The blowhole leads to the rest of the respiratory system and allows for air to pass in and out. Dolphins are capable of squeezing their blowhole shut while submerging so that they do not take on water.

Do dolphins have blowholes?

Yes, all dolphins and whales breathe using their blowholes. Blowholes are conveniently located at the top of their heads so that they can easily inhale air when they come to the surface. Dolphins also use their blowholes to exhale, which they tend to do sharply when they come to the surface.

Do dolphins have gills?

No, dolphins do not have gills. Gills are used to breathe by sharks, fish and rays that are able to absorb oxygen from water passing over their gills. Dolphins and other marine mammals do not have this ability and therefore depend on breathing air through their lungs to survive.

How do dolphins sleep without drowning?

Unlike most mammals, dolphins need to be conscious to breathe, meaning they need to be actively aware of their breathing in order to survive. But as you can imagine, this could be pretty tricky to do while asleep!

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But dolphins are thought to essentially turn off half of their brain while they sleep, so that they can remain almost half-conscious enough to help regulate their breathing.

How do dolphins breathe when they sleep?

Since dolphins are half conscious while sleeping, it allows them to control their breathing, which they need to do in order to continue breathing. Dolphins will sleep in short bursts near the surface so that they can quickly and easily pop to the surface for air.

Dolphins will “switch” which side of their brain is conscious or awake so that both sides can get equal rest. That being said, dolphins do not need nearly as much sleep as humans do!

Can dolphins survive on land?

While they need to breathe air to survive like all mammals, dolphins can not survive on land. Dolphins have evolved to survive in the ocean, and being on land for too long can be deadly. For one, dolphins are not able to walk or slither, and their streamline body is not built for land, which would make it impossible for them to survive.

Dolphins are fairly large-bodied and being on land would likely make it difficult for them to breathe. In the water, buoyancy is on their side, which prevents their large body size from impeding their breathing.

Dolphins can also dry-out. Their skin, if not in water, will become very dry and dehydrated. But perhaps the biggest risk for dolphins being out of water is overheating. Unlike most mammals, dolphins do not have sweat glands and therefore would not have the means to cool themselves down on land.

In some cases, dolphins that are ill or injured may find themselves stranded, where they will be left to die unless they are rescued.

Some dolphins however may briefly go onto land (on purpose) during feeding. While hunting, some dolphins will work together to corner a school of fish near the shore where they will push them closer and closer to the shore. The fish may beach themselves in a last ditch effort to escape, where they will be promptly gobbled up by the pod of dolphins hunting them.

How long can dolphins stay out of water?

Dolphins can remain out of the water for several hours so long as they manage to remain relatively cool and wet. In captive situations, dolphins may need to be removed from the water for transport or care, but in these cases they are kept cool and are regularly wet down.


Dolphins are mammals made for a life in the ocean. They are capable of holding their breaths for long bouts and switching parts of their brain on and off while they sleep in order to continue breathing at the surface, which is truly remarkable!

That being said, dolphins are not capable of holding their breath as quite nearly as long as their other marine mammal counterparts like whales and seals. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are truly an amazing group of animals!