Thursday, November 04, 2004

Did you know that Turtles breathe through their butts?

Realy they do :)

"Although basically air-breathing, many aquatic
species have developed ways to pick up oxygen even
when submerged. Of these the most remarkable, which
some turtles share with dragonfly nymphs, sea
cucumbers, and certain televangelists, is the
ability to breathe through one's butt. You've heard
the expression ‘Blow it out your after regions?’
It's no mere figure of speech. Many species have a
pair of sacs (bursae) opening off the cloaca
(combined digestive and urogenital chamber). These
are heavily vascularized to facilitate the uptake of
"..Many turtles augment gas exchange at the lungs
with gas exchange in the throat or in the cloaca."
"..For this reason, many turtles breathe
spontaneously by extending their head and neck up
and forward while thrusting their forelegs backwards
to encourage air movement into their lungs."


Anonymous said...

Imagine my thrill to see the Straight Dope venturing fearlessly into my own rather esoteric bailiwick (turtle physiology). Nice answer from your ornithologist consultant. The Fitzroy River turtle can indeed breathe through the cloaca--for a recent demonstration, see:

However, I fear a misleading impression has been given that all turtles can do so--not true. A few "side-necked" turtles (like the Fitzroy River guy) can, but the vast majority of turtles either don't have cloacal bursae, or have them but can't use them for breathing. I reviewed all available evidence on the topic in a recent paper in the Journal of Experimental Zoology (see:, in which I also proved once and for all that, whatever turtles are doing with their butts, they cannot drink through them. Science marches on. --Chas Peterson, Department of Zoology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater OK

Anonymous said...

No wonder their breath is so bad!!!