Can Turtles Drown? Terrific Tips Turtle Owners Should Know! | Kidadl


Can Turtles Drown? Terrific Tips Turtle Owners Should Know!

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Turtles are one of the most interesting cold-blooded reptiles to learn about.

We have covered whether you have some pet turtles and want to make sure they don't drown or learn about these animals' respiratory systems. Learn more about these species that can stay on both land and water!

Turtles can widely be divided into aquatic turtles and land turtles. As their names suggest, land turtles spend most of their time on the earth's surface, while aquatic turtles spend time underwater. The main point where both of these types of turtles are made similar is the fact that all turtles, despite their species, breathe through their lungs.

You may be wondering how turtles manage to stay underwater if they need to come to the surface for air. Well, the answer is both simple and very interesting. Turtles have a very low metabolic rate. For this reason, they do not need to breathe air as frequently as we do. At the same time, all species of turtles are also prone to drowning under certain conditions. Let's find out if a turtle breathes through their mouth, how does a turtle sleep and how much time different turtle species can spend underwater!

How do turtles breathe?

Both turtles and tortoises have similar respiratory systems. They breathe through their nostrils and have a pair of lungs to use the oxygen derived from the air. However, it is also important to note that some species of turtles also have a set of gill-like organs, which allows them to infuse a small amount of oxygen from the water. This organ is the cloaca.

It is easier for land turtles and tortoises to breathe air since they are nearly always on the earth's surface. Things are a little complicated for marine or sea turtles since they need to rise to the surface to get air frequently. The amount of time that turtles can spend underwater is highly variable. The factors which decide how much a turtle can spend underwater before getting drowned depend heavily on its species and also on the conditions of the water.

Cloaca is a very interesting orifice at the posterior end of some turtles. This orifice is also where many other functions occur, such as reproduction and digestion. In addition to this, a turtle's cloaca can act as a weak pair of gills. These gill-like structures can infuse a small amount of oxygen from the water and help the animal sustain itself. This is especially important in the winter when sea turtles hibernate. At this time of the year, turtles lower their metabolic rate to such an extent that they do not need any air for months at a time.

During hibernation, the amount of oxygen derived from the surroundings is enough for the animal to survive under the water's surface. The cloaca has reduced functions during other seasons since the marine turtles can quickly come up to the water surface for their dose of air. Some aquatic species, such as green sea turtles, can spend 7-10 hours underwater without wanting to breathe air.

This duration is drastically less in the case of land species that have not evolved in a way that would enable them to hold their breath for so long. Moreover, land turtles typically have a higher metabolic rate, which means they need air more often. Some land species can spend only around a minute or two without wanting to breathe!

Can turtles breathe underwater?

Yes, turtles can breathe underwater. However, this is not universal. Only some marine turtles have an organ called the cloaca, which allows them to infuse the oxygen from water into their own bodies. A cloaca works somewhat like a gill and lets the animal stay underwater for long periods of time. This is especially true when sea turtles are in hibernation.

In the winter season, the cold water makes these animals lower their metabolism and enter a phase of inactivity. In such phases, they live deep under the water's surface and do not come up for air. In such cases, the oxygen-derived through the cloaca keeps the animal alive. Once winter is over, these cold-blooded animals turn their metabolic rate back up and hence keep coming up to breathe every few hours.

The oxygen infused through the cloaca can keep turtles alive for a couple of months in winter, but the same is not applicable in other seasons. Once the turtle's metabolic rate is high again, it cannot stay underwater for too long and needs air. This is also one of the reasons why sea turtles drown. If they had fully functional gills as fishes do, this would not have been the case. Turtles take in breaths through their mouth but not in the same way humans do!

Red-eared sliders can stay underwater for 20-30 minutes!

How long can a turtle hold its breath?

The amount of time that a turtle can spend underwater without breathing is completely dependent on a range of factors. The first and arguably the most important factor is the species. Understandably, sea turtles can spend hours without wanting to come up for air. However, this is not the case with pet turtles or land turtles.

Land turtles are not acclimatized to holding their breath for long periods of time. Furthermore, given that the land surface is nearly always hotter than places underwater, land turtles have a slightly higher metabolic rate than sea turtles. This essentially means that they need more air than marine species of turtles.

If we consider a red-eared slider, the simple fact is that it can get drowned. However, this does not mean that the animal is not capable of sustaining itself in a marine environment. Red-eared sliders breathe through their noses, and even if your turtle has a tank full of water, it will likely thrive as long as there is nothing that can trap it deep inside the tank. Red-eared sliders can spend 20-30 minutes underwater; however, the time limit is highly variable.

Since we cannot hold conclusive studies without risking a turtle's life, these estimations are based on observation. Some red-eared sliders can even stay underwater for about 40 minutes. Most of the red-eared sliders in the world stick their head out of the water after about 10-15 minutes. A red-eared slider owner should be careful that the animal has a basking spot and something to climb on to reach the water surface.

At the same time, turtles that live in deserts have a completely different set of features. Since these reptiles are cold-blooded in nature, the metabolic rate of a desert turtle would be heightened by its hot environment. It would thus need to fill its lungs more frequently. Such land turtles drown more easily. For example, a box turtle or desert tortoise can live underwater for only a minute or two.

Snapping turtles and map turtles can also spend 20-30 minutes underwater. Box turtles are usually kept in a tank where they can easily reach the water surface. A basking area is also essential for pet turtles, and the temperature of tanks must also be regulated.

If you are wondering how it is that turtles can stay submerged for hours at a time, the answer is simple. Humans and turtles are very different with regard to their respiratory system. Humans have a torso that contracts and expands with each breath. This is not the case with turtles. Turtles have a shell, which gives them more control over their breathing patterns.

Especially when under the water's surface, this proves to be a very useful skill. They can fill their lungs and keep it there for a long time, thus not needing to get air frequently. Turtles don't essentially hold their breath underwater, and they have different anatomy than us. Furthermore, turtles can use two lungs of air for a long time since they have a lower metabolism underwater.

Do turtles sleep underwater?

Since sea turtles can stay submerged for 7-10 hours at a time, they can easily manage to sleep underwater as well. Such wild species enjoy being in low-temperature conditions, where there is no need to stick their neck out and breathe!

Signs Of A Turtle Drowning

If you are scared of your pet turtle drowning, here are a few signs that should quickly alert you. When a turtle runs out of breath underwater, it enters a comatose state. If your pet stops moving and shows a lack of responses or reflexes, there is a strong chance that it may have drowned. However, the slightly good news is that you, as a pet owner, can revive your little friend with the proper technique.

Another thing to keep in mind is that baby turtles are most vulnerable to drowning. They are very inexperienced in holding their breath underwater and managing air when submerged. Hence a pet owner must be extra careful when there is a baby turtle in the house!

How to revive a drowned turtle?

In the unfortunate case that your pet turtles do drown, there are a couple of things that you can do. The first and most important thing to do would gently pull the turtle out of the water. Make sure not to turn the turtle on its back since that could further risk its life.

Then, gently place the turtle on a table or any flat surface. Again make sure that the turtle is resting on its belly. Once the body is laid down, extend the animal's neck and lower its head. Lowering the head helps all the extra water to come out.

Once some water has dripped out of your pet's mouth, stretch its front legs and push them towards the belly while still keeping them straight. In this way, the front legs push the water out of the animal's lungs. If this works, your pet turtle should start breathing in a couple of minutes. The next thing to do would be to take it to the nearest vet for some specialized turtle care!

Written By
Martha Martins

<p>Martha is a full-time creative writer, content strategist, and aspiring screenwriter who communicates complex thoughts and ideas effectively. She has completed her Bachelor's in Linguistics from Nasarawa State University. As an enthusiast of public relations and communication, Martha is well-prepared to substantially impact your organization as your next content writer and strategist. Her dedication to her craft and commitment to delivering high-quality work enables her to create compelling content that resonates with audiences.</p>

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