Reptile’s Fun Fact: How Can Turtles Breathe Through Their Butts?

Turtles are cold-blooded animals. In winter, their internal temperature tracks the environment temperature.

They build anaerobic respiration that their metabolism powered without oxygen. Their breathing process does not just diffuse oxygen inside and carbon dioxide outside.

During the hibernation period, turtles obtain a source of oxygen through the butts. The unique way on how can turtles breathe through their butts is very amazing. This respiration system happens to some species.

Turtle’s Parts of Body to Respire

Turtles have more than one breathing technique. On the surface, turtles breathe with lungs. Lungs are the main means of respiration. Those sit inside the cage, as the rib cage, with other organs and legs.

Some turtles absorb oxygen through their mouths and throats. A turtle moves its mouth and throat when it is underwater. The same way occurs above water. Its mouth and throat allow diffusing oxygen. That is why the membranes of the mouth and throat are moist.

The other way to respire is through cloacae. A cloaca is an opening at the end part of the turtle’s body. A turtle uses it for reproduction, excretion, and respiration.

While they are hibernating underwater, slow metabolism demands lower oxygen. They get enough oxygen not with lungs, but cloacae. We call this cloacal respiration, which turtles can breathe through the butts.

Turtle’s Cloacal Respiration

When turtles are underwater, they use cloacal respiration. It is also known as bum breathing. Aquatic gas exchange on cloacal bursa allows turtles to obtain oxygen supply. It happens at the end part of turtles.

The cloacal bursa characterizes cell that enables to extract oxygen from water. Bursa cells absorb oxygen into the bloodstream. Another process of gas exchange also occurs when water passes across membranes in turtle’s mouth.

The Reasons Why Turtles breathe Through Their Butts

Turtles use both mouth and butt to breathe. Nevertheless, why they do not just use mouth to breathe is because of their shells. Turtles inhale or exhale through the openings of the shell. It causes hard work to breathe in lower oxygen and higher acid level in the body.

The shell does to not only keep turtle safe from the prey but also store some lactic acid for protection. The anaerobic process produces this acid during hibernation.

The body works differently while hibernating. The shell enables to release bicarbonates into their body.

To survive in overwinter, turtles will bury themselves underwater. With lack of oxygen, they breathe through the butts. This breathing technique enables turtles to hide under cold water for about five months.

Kinds of Butt-breathing Turtle Species

Some rare species of turtles have a unique way to breathe. The Eastern Snapping (Chelydra serpentina), North American Painting, and Australian Fitzroy river turtles are notable for butt-breathing animals.

Butt-breathing process allows turtles to take up oxygen from water directly. They can easily dive for about three hours to find aquatic plants as their main food. Clean and free-flowing water is a good habitat for these species.

Unfortunately, erosion from mining and agriculture damages turtles’ habitat. The world declares them endangered species. To avoid being extinct, they need land regeneration. It will protect the habitat well and prevent further erosion.

How can turtles breathe through their butts is awesome. This breathing system becomes a unique survival mechanism to face the winter.

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