How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath

The sea turtles are one of the extraordinary and mystic creatures of nature. Do you know? The sea turtles have been in the mother earth for more than 110 million years, and they have shared the habitat with dinosaurs? They are also one of the most-lived animals, with an average lifespan of 100 years. Another excellent capability of the turtle is they can hold the breath for a subnational amount of time.

So, how long can sea turtles hold their breath? The sea turtles, also known as the aquatic turtles, keep the record for the species that can hold the breath underwater the longest. Today, we’ll discuss everything that you need to know about the sea turtle’s breathing.

How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath 1

How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath Underwater

Sea turtle cannot breathe underwater, but they can hold the breath for a significant period. The breath-holding capacity of a sea turtle varies from four hours to seven hours, depending on many factors. As an example, the turtle can hold breath for several hours while they are sleeping. When the turtle is hibernating in cold water, the turtle requires less movement and can hold the breath for around seven hours.

The turtle usually holds their breath around 45 minutes to one hour during their daily activity. However, they will not hold the breath for such a big-time when they don’t require it. Typically, they dive for around 5 minutes and then come back to the surface level for breathing for a few seconds. Some turtles can pass the entire winter season underwater because of the slow heart rate and oxygen extraction capability.

In some situations, the turtle cannot hold the breath for an extended period. Notably, the turtle will consume the stored oxygen in the body when entangled in a ghost net. They can even drown underwater in such situations.

What Factors Affect the Breathing Motion of the Turtle

In the above, we have discussed the main reasons that assist the turtle in holding the breath for an extended period. Here are some more factors that facilitate the turtle in holding its breath underwater:


The ectothermic animals which mean they are cold-blooded. It helps the turtle to keep their body warm from different sources like sunlight and warm water. The metabolism rate of the turtle also fluctuates with temperature changes. The turtle will usually go through a slower metabolism when the temperature is cold and high metabolism in a warm environment. The quicker the metabolism is, the more oxygen they will need.


As we said earlier, the turtles usually stay underwater for a few minutes during their usual activities. However, if there are any disturbances and changes in their habitat, they will require more oxygen for breathing. That is why it is crucial to control the water temperature in the turtle tank on the comfortable level of the pet sea turtle. You may find the turtle underwater for hours during the nights when it is sleeping.  


A variety of aquatic turtle can hibernate underwater in the northern areas. It usually swims to the bottom of the waterside and covers its whole body with a substrate. The metabolic rate of the turtle starts lowering, requiring very little oxygen and food to survive in this period. A turtle can keep its breath when it is hibernating. Turtle can also absorb some oxygen from the water using their specialized throat and cloaca in a smaller amount.

How Can Sea Turtle Hold Their Breath?

The sea turtle requires to hold the breath for an extended period while diving deep in the sea to search for food. Most species of the sea turtle can jump around 290m or 960 ft. However, the leatherback species can unbelievably go up to 1000m or 3000 ft deep. They become possible because of their flexible shell and collapsible lungs. More so, the species of turtle can also store more oxygen in its blood and muscles.

The leatherback turtles are also adopted in the cold environment. As a result, they can dive into cold water without getting cold-stunned. The turtle’s body uses a counter-current heat exchange system to keep the body warm at the required level. More so, the body can also retain warmth because of its dark color and fatty tissues with oil that works as a heat observer. 

The turtles can decrease their heart bit rate to a significant level to keep underwater for an extended period. As per the researcher, there can be a nine-minute difference between the heartbeats of the turtle, which assists in staying underwater for a long time. These turtles also have a better metabolism rate, which helps produce a lot of heat while active. These things help the sea turtles to hold the breath underwater.

Can Sea Turtle Drown?

Turtles are considered as a reptile animal, which means they are not like fish and other species in the sea. They miss a particular organ called gills in the fish, which helps them to breathe underwater. Instead, the turtles have lungs and breathe air to breathe, just like human beings.Though some species can absorb oxygen underwater in a little amount, most of them cannot breathe underwater most of the time. 

As you see above, the turtles can hold the breath underwater for various reasons for a long time. However, they require to come in surface level within a while to refill the oxygen in the body. If somehow the turtle failed to go back on the surface level for breathing after holding the breath, they may drown. Some turtles are also terrible at swimming, which can be a reason for drowning.

Turtles cannot hold breath when they are disturbed or become stressed. In such situations, they will require more oxygen consumption. They can also bring trapped underwater underneath rocks or something like this, which can lead them to drown.


The sea turtles are one of the fittest animals considering their breath-holding capability, long lifespan, and other characteristics. Still, the number of these turtles is drastically lowering due to climate change and other issues. Proper steps should be taken to save the mysterious animal from being extinct.

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