How Long Can a Whale Hold Its Breath?

Auscape / UIG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Although the amount of time that a whale can hold its breath varies by species, the beaked whale can hold its breath for up to 2 hours. The sperm whale can hold its breath for up to 90 minutes.

The secret to the whale’s capability for holding its breath lies in its specially developed breathing system that allows it to absorb up to 90 percent of the oxygen breathed in. By contrast, humans only absorb around 15 percent.

According to the University of California, Santa Barbara ScienceLine, whales breathe in through blowholes on the tops of their heads. Because the whale only breathes at the surface, it has evolved with the ability to choose when to breathe and cannot breathe underwater.