June 9, 2024 at 2:26 am

The Animal That Can Hold Its Breath The Longest Is The Cuvier’s Beaked Whale

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

Have you ever heard about freediving humans, and how long they can hold their breath? Or even Navy Seals?

The maximum is between 5 and 10 minutes, which is impressive, right?

The world record, held by Croatian freediver Budimir Šobat, is nearly 25 minutes.

What (other) animal can hold its breath the longest?

The answer is Cuvier’s beaked whales, which can hold their breath for at least 3 hours and 42 minutes – that’s the longest ever recorded, during a 5-year-long study.

Source: Shutterstock

The study followed 23 of the species, and although that number is impressive, the average dive duration for these whales was closer to one hour.

Only about 5% of the observed beaked whales had dives that exceeded 1 hour and 17.7 minutes.

And there are other marine mammals who can beat that average, if not the longest diving outlier.

Sperm whales regularly spend around 1.5 hours underwater, and elephant seals can hold their breath for up to two hours as well.

Source: Shutterstock

Deep-diving marine mammals are able to accomplish this because their muscles are loaded with myoglobin, a protein that stores oxygen and supplies it to muscle cells.

Humans have far lower concentrations of this protein, because too many together could cause disease.

A 2013 study attempted to explain why this issue doesn’t arise for marine mammals who store it in far higher concentrations.

“Like the similar poles of a magnet; the proteins repel one another. In this way we think the animals are able to pacl really high concentrations of these proteins into their muscles and avoid them sticking together and clogging up the muscles.”

Researchers believe that metabolic rate also plays a part, and the Cuvier’s beaked whales have an incredibly low one. This means they won’t use up oxygen as quickly.

They are also thought to have a better tolerance for the lactate that builds up in the muscles due to the switch to anaerobic respiration.

Source: Shutterstock

All of this means that humans have likely reached our biological limit for breath-holding.

And even then, there’s only one guy who can do it.