Research Asks: How Do Fish Hold Their Breath?

The discovery of several fish from the Chaunacidae family that hold their breath underwater for up to four minutes has been very interesting. A group of researchers from Dickinson College and Howard University, in the United States, observed the strange behavior while reviewing videos recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientific agency.

Fish breathe through gills, the respiratory organs of numerous aquatic animals that allow them to extract oxygen from water. The images show the extraordinary ability of these fish to contain large amounts of water in their gill chambers without inhaling or exhaling. They have a limp body with the ability to swell in a large balloon. Its rough skin is covered with small scales similar to spines and the mouth is large, almost vertical, with tiny teeth arranged in bands.

The team also took computerized tomography (CT) images of some museum samples to examine the huge gill chambers these animals use to hold water. This genus of fish, which is distributed throughout the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, takes its name from the Greek chaunax, which means unreality.

The scientists registered with their teams eight copies, but they have not yet solved why they hold their breath underwater. One of the possibilities that they consider in their article, published by Nicholas P. Long and Stacy C. Farina in the Journal of Fish Biology, is that they inflate when they feel danger, acquiring a huge size with pointed spines that deter predators. In fact, this strategy allows them to increase their body volume by 30%. Nor do they rule out that this genus, of an extremely lazy nature, contains water to help them reserve energy that they would otherwise use to pump water.

Glenn Clinton

HI! I'm Glenn and I'm the founder of our boutique news agency at I have had an interest in nature and science from a very early age, and thoroughly enjoy reporting on the latest scientific research. I'm a graduate from Michigan State University and work in mechanical engineering.

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Glenn Clinton

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