How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath

Sea turtles are the symbol of life and longevity. The origin of these ancient mariners dates back to the late Jurassic dinosaurs for about 150 million years ago. Sea turtles are eminently migratory animals on earth and can travel 10,000 miles or more each year. Undoubtedly, they are the best divers, but you might be asking yourself – how long can sea turtles hold their breath underwater?

Sea Turtles can incredibly hold their breath for up to 5 hours at a time. Their extraordinary breath-holding abilities enable them to stay underwater for an extended period of time, as long as when not stressed. Also, it allows them to explore deep down in the ocean to find food. That is how long sea turtles can hold their breath underwater. Just amazing!

Why Turtles Can Hold Their Breath Underwater for So Long?

Although many turtles spend most of their time underwater, turtles do not have gills and must breathe air just like humans. They must prepare to breach the surface at regular intervals to breathe air and refill their lungs. Immersion periods can vary between a few minutes and an hour, depending on the type of species.

The secret of why turtles can hold their breath underwater for so long is because of their ability to slow down their heart rate. You must be wondering – Why do turtles have the ability to slow down their heart rate? The turtles have phenomenal anatomy of the blood vessels. They have enormous stores of oxygen in their blood and muscle tissues. Moreover, it allows them to decrease their heartbeat to a significant level. It means they conserve oxygen while diving and exploring the water to hunt food at a slow heart rate.

Another reason turtles can hold their breath for a long time is because of their ability to respire through the Cloaca. Cloaca is an opening organ located at the base of its tail. It is an outlet to discharge their reproductive fluids, fecal matter, and urine. It is also the same chamber to lay eggs.

According to the study, Leatherback turtles have the ability to slow their heart rate by up to 9 minutes in between heartbeats.

How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath

Why Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath for So Long

It is no doubt that sea turtles love to swim in the ocean, and in fact, they spend a vast amount of their lives underwater. They are known to be hydrodynamic swimmers and can swim at impressive speed. Sea turtles have outstanding respiration competence. They can hold their breath for a massive amount of time as they are reptiles and cold-blooded.

They have a slow metabolism and therefore do not need much oxygen to stay submerged for prolonged periods. And because of their enormous lungs, they can store as much oxygen needs. Additionally, they can cope with pressure changes while diving. These are the reasons why sea turtles hold their breath for so long.

However, the diving endurance can drastically reduce when forcibly submerged in the water, for example, entangled in a trawl net.

How Long Can a Sea Turtle Stay Underwater

How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath

Sea mariners such as sea turtles can stay underwater for a long time. The duration of staying under the water varies depending on the level of aquatic activity. For aquatic activities such as resting or sleeping underwater, sea turtles can remain underwater between 4 and 7 hours. Research has found that sea turtles can hold their breath up to ten hours during times of hibernation, permitting as little movement as possible.

However, a stressed sea turtle, entangled in a fishing net or trapped in sea plants, quickly uses up its stored oxygen within its body and may die due to drowning.

Can Sea Turtles Breathe Underwater

How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath

The sea turtles are not classified as fish to breathe underwater. The answer is No. Although sea turtles can hold their breath underwater for a long time, just like all reptiles, they need air to breathe and replenish their lungs. If they are diving deep into the ocean to hunt food or find mates, they must surface regularly to refill their lungs.

In addition, Sea turtles have large lungs, which allow them to replenish their lungs rapidly with just one explosive inhalation. And they can collect more oxygen at the same time by performing intense inhalation.

However, there are times that sea turtles cannot swim underwater. It is during the season of Cold-stunning. This phenomenon happens when sea turtles enter cold ocean water at 7 to 10 degrees Celcius. In this case, sea turtles can’t swim underwater, but instead, they stay afloat to the surface.

Why Are Sea Turtles Endangered

How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath

Sea turtles are majestic sea mariners found anywhere in the world in both tropical and subtropical oceans except for the polar regions. They play a vital part in maintaining the marine ecosystem in providing balance and nutrition. However, they are considered endangered because of many human activities.

Here are the following reasons why sea turtles are at risk of extinction:

  1. Habitat loss due to tourism.
  2. Commercial fishing entangles them by fishing nets.
  3. Climate change has dangerous effects on their nesting sites.
  4. Waste Products: Plastic bags and bottles.
  5. Exploitation resulting in the consumption of their eggs and flesh.

Some people use eggs and turtle meats as a source of income. Others tend to kill sea turtles due to their falsely religious ceremonies. Also, they use them as a source of medicine, so many turtles die every year. These illegal activities can ultimately destroy their population and affect their mortality.

Turtle Facts

Sea turtles are necessary for enriching nesting beaches around the world. When female sea turtle lays their eggs on the sands of the beach, they plant the required nutrients needed for the beach ecosystem.


Sea turtles have the longest duration of holding their breath underwater compared to other species. They are designed to boost the marine ecosystem and maintain its health and seagrass habitats. We can help preserve these prehistoric mariners by not throwing plastic bags and bottles in the water.

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