- Ectotherms use outside sources to maintain their body heat, while endotherms use the oxygen in their bodies.
- Elephant seals can hold their breath for two hours on average.
- Loggerhead turtles are especially impressive, as they are able to hold their breaths for over 10 hours.
Human bodies are not designed to hold their breaths for too long. The most we can manage is probably two minutes, with some people managing to achieve much larger numbers than that. But those are extreme cases. When it comes to animals, the situation changes. There are actually many animals that can hold their breath for longer periods of time.
Many of them can do it for two hours, while others can go even longer than that. An interesting thing we should note is that we divide animals into two groups according to how they maintain their body heat. Ectotherms use outside sources to maintain it, while endotherms use the oxygen in their bodies. Humans fall into the other group.
Naturally, it is much harder for endotherms to hold their breath for extended periods of time. However, some manage. Seals and many species of whales can hold their breaths for over 2 hours. Of course, there are also sea turtles, such as loggerhead turtles, that are able to hold their breath for more than 10 hours.
What Mammals Can Hold Their Breath The Longest?
When it comes to mammals, several whale species can hold their breaths for an extremely long amount of time. Cuvier’s beaked whale immediately comes to mind, because they can hold their breaths for well over two hours, although on average they do it for about an hour.
Seals are another good example of a mammal that is able to hold its breath for a long time. Elephant seals can actually hold their breath for two hours on average. Sea turtles are not mammals, but they can live on a single breath for an incredible amount of time.
Loggerhead turtles are especially impressive, as they are able to hold their breaths for over 10 hours. Many animals specialized in diving underwater, for different reasons. Some turtles do it to hibernate, while most whales do it to hunt for food. It is an ability that has evolved throughout millions of years.
When mammals dive underwater, they are able to slow down their heart rate; they stop breathing and can change the direction that their blood flows. They usually change the direction of the blood from going into their extremities to their muscles, brain, and heart.
The Effect Of Myoglobin
Elephant seals actually use their internal oxygen storage while they are underwater for an extended period of time. However, there are also other things that happen in the bodies of these animals when they dive underwater. According to a recent study, all of these diving mammals have special proteins that are positively charged and used to bind oxygen.
These proteins are called myoglobin and can be found in their muscles. Some of the mammals that have myoglobin are seals, otters, whales, beavers, and many more. With this protein, they can store much more oxygen than other mammals, including humans. This naturally allows them to dive longer because they can draw on this oxygen storage while being underwater.
In these animals, myoglobin is densely concentrated in their muscles, and this keeps proteins from sticking too closely together. This prevents many diseases from appearing in these animals. All of this happened naturally, through evolution, because these animals live in different conditions than humans. However, by further exploring the effects of myoglobin, we might be able to help humans as well.