The Deepest Diving Animals

Which animals can dive particularly deep? Which bird can dive several hundred meters? And which animals can live 27,000 ft (8 km) deep below the surface?

The animals in this list set remarkable records that are difficult to imagine for us humans. Scroll down for more info and illustrative examples! 

Diving Depth
Bony fish Cusk-eel 27,460 ft (8,370 m) *
Octopus "Dumbo-Octopus" 22,965 ft (7,000 m)
Crustacean Amphipoda 17,388 ft (5,300 m)
Toothed whale Cuvier’s beaked whale 9.586 ft (2,922 m) **
Cartilaginous fish Rabbit fish 8,202 ft (2,500 m)
Seal Southern elephant seal 7,834 ft (2,388 m)
Toothed whale Sperm whale 7,381 ft (2,250 m) ***
Manta ray Spinetail mobula 6,062 ft (1,848 m)
Toothed whale Giant beaked whale ~ 5830 ft (>~1,777 m)
Toothed whale Northern bottlenose whale 4,767 ft (1,453 m)
Turtle Leatherback turtle 4199 ft (1,280 m)
Toothed whale Blainville’s beaked whale ~ 1,250 m
Mackerel sharks Goblin shark ~ 3,937 ft (~ 1,200 m)
Dolphin Short-finned pilot whale 3,343 ft (1,019 m)
Seal Weddell seal 1,998 ft (609 m)
Bird Emperor penguin 1.751 ft (534 m)

* This record has not been confirmed. The cusk-eel was caught in a net on the ground of the Puerto Rico Trench (an 800 km long deep sea trench). There haven’t been any other finds in similar nets, so that the animal is assumed to rather live in depths of about 6561 ft (2,000 m).
** for 137.5 min.! Just consider: Whales are mammals that have to come up to the water surface to breathe.
*** In the stomachs of sperm whales the remains of animals were found that only live in depths of about 9842 ft (3,000 m). Therefore, sperm whales are assumed to be able to dive that deep. Yet, this theory has not been officially confirmed yet.

Humboldt Penguin Humboldt Penguin - Photo: jgolby/Shutterstock

Heads in the Water, Little Tails up in the Air!

Moose can dive up to 19.6 ft (6 m) deep in order to reach especially delicate and delicious water plants on the ground of the river. Respect!

Even William Trubridge, the “human” Deep Diving world champion (without flippers) cannot keep up with many animals. Although he is able to dive 331.3 ft (101 m) deep, the emperor penguin is still better at it and manages 1,751 ft (534 m). A human being would die at this depth without a special diving suit or diving bell because of the enormous pressure.

And now, just imagine to dive 26.2 ft (8 m) deep. This would be no problem for the cusk-eel ... but it would not survive diving up to the water surface due to the low pressure there.

Diving Records and Average Diving Depths

All listed records are extreme diving depths. Usually, animals do not stay so deep in the water all the time, but also come up to the water surface regularly, e.g. to take a breath. Next time they possibly do not dive as deep. Not every animal always tries to reach the record depth as food can also be found at higher levels.

Whales are not the only Divers

Birds are also very good at diving. This might surprise you at first – mostly you would think of birds flying high in the air. But not all birds can fly, such as the ostrich, which is a very good runner instead. Penguins also cannot fly, but they are very good swimmers and divers.

The emperor penguin can even dive 1.751 ft (534 m) deep and thus holds the record. The thick-billed murre (from the family of auks) is very good at flying AND diving. It can reach a depth of about 688 ft (210 m). In addition to birds, reptiles such as the leatherback turtle and octopuses also dive rather deep.

Mehr information:
6 Creepy Deep-Sea Animals
Animals That Are Best at Holding Breath under Water
How Do Animals Breathe Under Water?