How Long Can Penguins Stay Underwater?

Penguins can dive up to 500 m deep in the water, but how long can penguins stay underwater? The answer varies from different species and the weather conditions under which the penguins are making the dive. There are several other factors that come into play when you want to know about the diving duration of penguins. In this article, we are going to take a look at some factors that decide the diving duration of penguin and why penguins are such accomplish divers.

Emperor penguins can dive for up to 25 minutes when they are hunting for krill or fish under the water. According to records, Emperor Penguins dives have been measured up to 1,755 feet (535m) deep. Here are some biological advantages that penguins have over other birds when it comes to staying underwater.

Streamlined Bodies – Penguins have streamlined bodies that are perfect for diving deep into the water to great depths. Mostly penguins hunt for fish close to the surface of the water, but as more penguins hunt in an area and there is a lack of availability of fish, penguins can dive deeper and hunt for food.

Heavy Bones – Unlike other birds that have hollow bones, penguins have solid bones, filled with marrow that makes them heavier than hollow bird bones. As penguins cannot fly, their heavy bones help them in diving deeper into the water and staying down for a long period of time.

Penguins Can Stay Underwater for 20-25 Minutes

Penguins Can Stay Underwater for 20-25 Minutes

A Layer of Blubber – The water in the Antarctic region can get extremely cold, but penguins have a defense against the cold water in the form of blubber that helps them survive the cold. The layer of blubber under their skin also helps them to save their organs from the underwater pressure as they dive deeper.

Dense Feathers Help Penguins Stay Underwater for Longer Time

Dense Feathers Help Penguins Stay Underwater for Longer Time

Protective Feathers – Penguins have an extensive layer of tightly packed feather on their body that helps them survive the cold weather of the Antarctic by trapping in air under the small feathers. This air also acts as insulation when penguins dive deep into the water. Another use of the air bubbles is that penguins can shuffle their feathers to create a layer of air around them that helps them to exit the water quickly. This quick exit puts penguins out of the reach of any predators that might be lurking near the surface.

Effective Use of OxygenPenguins can regulate the oxygen in their body to give them the maximum benefit. Penguins divert the oxygen from their body to just the heart and the brain. This allows penguins to dive deeper for a longer period without getting fatigued. Their body continues to supply oxygen to their body parts as needed.

Powerful Flippers – Penguins cannot fly, but they have evolved to develop powerful flippers that allow them to dive deeper with less effort. In fact, their underwater swimming motion makes it look like they are flying in the water. Also, their flippers are shaped in a way that makes it easier to move them through the water for explosive propulsion. Flippers and webbed feet are the primary forces that give penguins deep diving abilities.

Energy Management – While diving, penguins can manage their energy levels so that only the most necessary body parts are given priority. In fact, penguins can lower their heartbeat to three to five beats per minute to save energy while diving. Their blood also has excessive hemoglobin which enhances the oxygen transportation properties of the blood.



If you consider the question how long can penguins stay underwater? The answer is anywhere from 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the penguin. Smaller penguins will definitely have trouble staying underwater for long, but larger penguins can breathe more and dive deeper because of their size and blubber deposits.

Penguins mostly hunt for fish near the surface, but as global warming impacts the availability of fish and krill, they have to work harder for food. This means diving deeper and for more extended periods, for which penguins are well-suited.

We hope this article was able to answer all your questions regarding the diving time of penguins. What do you think about the duration of dive of the penguins? Do share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section.




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I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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