Penguins - extreme divers

Penguins - extreme divers

Can you hold your breath for as long as a penguin can?

How long can you hold your breath for? 10 seconds? 30 seconds?

Emperor penguins can hold their breath for an amazing 20 minutes! They dive under the ice in the cold oceans around Antarctica when they hunt for food. It's like us going to the supermarket and holding our breath whilst we do all the food shopping. Could you do that?

Penguin swimming_105138285

Penguins can hold their breath for 20 minutes

How do penguins do it?

Heart rate

How fast does your heart beat? You can count your heart beats by taking your pulse - or ask your parents to do it. An adult's heart rate is around 60-80 beats per minute. Your heart rate will be a bit faster. When a penguin dives under the water its heart rate slows to three beats per minute! That's very slow. This means blood moves round the penguin's body slowly, so that the oxygen supply lasts much longer.


When we breathe in, oxygen enters the lungs and then moves to the blood. Haemoglobin, a molecule in the blood, is an oxygen carrier. Penguins have loads more haemoglobin than humans, so they can carry lots more oxygen.

Now you know - to hold your breath like a penguin you need a slow heart rate and lots of haemoglobin!

What other animals need to hold their breath for a long time?

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