1. We use a large interspecific data set on diving variables for birds and mammals, and statistical techniques to control for the effects of phylogenetic non-independence, to assess evolutionary associations among different elements of diving behaviour across a broad and diverse range of diving species. Our aim is to assess whether the diving ability of homeothermic vertebrates is influenced by factors other than the physiology of the species. 2. Body mass is related to dive duration even when dive depth is controlled for and thus for a given dive depth, larger species dive for longer. This implies that larger species have a greater capacity for diving than is expressed in their dive depth. Larger animals that dive shallowly, probably for ecological reasons such as water depth, make use of the physiological advantage that their size confers by diving for longer. 3. Dive duration correlates with dive depth more strongly than with body mass. This confirms that some animals are poor divers for their body mass, either because of a lower physiological capacity or because their behaviour limits their diving. 4. Surface duration relates not only to dive duration but also to dive depth, as well as to both independently. This indicates a relationship between dive depth and surface duration controlling for dive duration, which suggests that deeper dives are energetically more expensive than shallow dives of the same duration. 5. Taxonomic class does not improve any of the dive variable models in the present study. There is thus an unsuspected consistency in the broad responses of different groups to the effects on diving of the environment, which are therefore general features of diving evolution.