In the new Aquaman movie there are a number of scenes where Atlanteans are seen on land wearing suits filled with water so they can breathe​. In some of the fight sequences we even seen their suits breaking and the person inside "drowns" like a fish out of water.

Yet Aquaman, his mother, and numerous other Atlanteans have no trouble breathing both air and water. I suppose in Aquaman's case he was half Atlantean and half human, but that doesn't explain the others who had this ability.

I felt like this was either not explained at all or else I missed it. Why do only some Atlanteans need water breathing suits while others don't?

  • 2
    I'm pretty sure that Mera at one point explains "... only the highborns can breath water as well as air." (I think it's when she and Arthur go to Atlantis for the first time and enter the shipwreck that has an airpocket inside it).
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


It's class/genetically based.

Here's an excerpt from an article i found.

While it involves genetics, it also seems to be a matter of class standing. Through the film's dialogue, it's explained only highborn Atlanteans are able to breathe both air and water. That means royalty and anyone who associates with them on a regular basis.
- Aquaman Movie Explains How Atlanteans Survive on Land

  • 1
    I realize this is an entirely different question, but... why?
    – sanpaco
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 2:37
  • for the purpose of the film.. if you read the article they explain that this feature is useful for cosmetics and plot purposes @sanpaco
    – Daeron
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 2:39
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    But there must be an in universe reason. Magic something something evolution?
    – sanpaco
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 2:44
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    If the only Atlanteans who can breath water and air are highborns, it would suggest that it was a genetic attribute that didn't get passed down to the common folk. After all, the queen was outcast because she mated with someone who wasn't royal lineage Atlantean...
    – elbrant
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 15:44
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    Atlantis used to be above water, so all Atlanteans once breathed air. Maybe the highborns consciously retained the ability to breath air so they could keep better tabs on the surface world, e.g. by going on land every now and then.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 21:44

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