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Q: Can turtles breathe out of their butts? ( No Answer,   7 Comments )
Subject: Can turtles breathe out of their butts?
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: gard0196-ga
List Price: $7.00
Posted: 20 Oct 2004 16:27 PDT
Expires: 04 Nov 2004 20:44 PST
Question ID: 417781
I need a reputible website that points out the fact that turtles can
breath out of their butts. Something like a science journal. I saw
something on but I need something more legitimate.

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 20 Oct 2004 16:35 PDT
Would this meet your needs? The source is "The Encyclopedia of
Australian Reptiles," by Allen E. Greer, of the Herpetology Section of
the Australian Museum:

"Aquatic respiration. As far as in known, all chelids have cloacal
bursae (Smith and James, 1958). These are two large diverticula
arising from the side of the cloaca. The cloacal bursae are almost
certainly an organ of gas exchange in water. In other words, the
turtles can respire through their bums. All chelids are probably able
to meet at least some of their gas exchange requirements (oxygen in,
carbon dioxide out) through cloacal respiration, but none can meet all
of their requirements this way. In addition to cloacal repiration,
chelids can also breath though their lungs and probably through their
skin. The morphology of the interior lining of the cloacal bursae is
probably a rough guide as to how much of their total repiration is
carried out through the bursae. Some species have relatively smooth
linings whereas others have highly evaginated linings, the projects
providing a very extensive surface area for gas exchange."
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Can turtles breathe out of their butts?
From: leapinglizard-ga on 20 Oct 2004 17:25 PDT
I have studied this question in the past due to my acquaintance with
Mr. Noodles, a northern common snapping turtle who lives in an
aquarium at the head of my bed. Members of his species are known to
overwinter under the ice, spending months at a time in frigid water
without emerging for air. It is known that they absorb air through
their skin as well as through their cloaca. The cloaca is not quite
the same as a mammal's posterior opening, since it is located on the
snapping turtle's tail and combines the functions of solid and liquid
excretion with the sexual organ.

"All turtles breathe with lungs, but many aquatic species such as the
softshell turtles can absorb oxygen while submerged, either through
their skin or by passing water over membranes in the throat or cloaca
(an internal chamber that opens at the base of the tail)."

Michigan Department of Natural Resources: Michigan's Turtles,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12201-60656--,00.html

"Turtles have a single rear vent that is referred to as a cloaca. 
Feces, urine, and eggs all exit a turtle through this cloaca, so not
surprisingly it is quite elastic and the opening can stretch
considerably. In a small number of water turtles, the cloaca also
possesses a pair of well-developed, vascularized sacs that lead off it
called bursae.  These cloacal bursae are surrounded by the same thin
membrane as the rest of the cloaca.  Gas exchange can occur across
this membrane when a turtle is submerged and allow some oxygen to
reach the blood. In most species this makes a minor contribution to
respiration however one species of turtle from Australia has taken
this to extremes.  The Fitzroy River turtle (Rheodytes leukops) can
pump water in and out of its cloacal bursae such that it can obtain as
much as two-thirds of its oxygen supply through this route. [Source:
Aquatic respiration and diving in the freshwater turtle, Rheodytes
leukops by Craig E. Franklin. Proc. Physiol. Soc.]"

California Turtle and Tortoise Club Turtle Trivia: Michael J. Connor:
Can Can turtles breathe through their butts?

On the other hand, scientists believe that a turtle cannot drink water
through its rear end.

Wiley InterScience: Negative test for cloacal drinking in a
semi-aquatic turtle (Trachemys scripta), with comments on the
functions of cloacal bursae

Subject: Re: Can turtles breathe out of their butts?
From: gard0196-ga on 20 Oct 2004 21:17 PDT
Good enough. If you have any more I'd love them but this should serve
it's purpose.

Thank you.
Subject: Re: Can turtles breathe out of their butts?
From: silver777-ga on 21 Oct 2004 00:09 PDT

I'm not certain about the turtles, but I have met a number of
politicians who are able to talk as you describe.

Subject: Re: Can turtles breathe out of their butts?
From: leapinglizard-ga on 21 Oct 2004 10:23 PDT
Go ahead and submit the answer, pinkfreud. You were first on the scene.

Subject: Re: Can turtles breathe out of their butts?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 21 Oct 2004 10:39 PDT

My post was less extensive than yours. In addition, the customer
responded to your post (in the Comments section) rather than to mine
(in the Clarification section). For these reasons, I am deferring to
you and Mr. Noodles (who is probably an expert in his own right).

Subject: Re: Can turtles breathe out of their butts?
From: madprof-ga on 04 Nov 2004 12:36 PST

I think this site has one of the best details on this...

Its actually called rectal breathing and if you search for this you
will find a lot of material on it.

Subject: Re: Can turtles breathe out of their butts?
From: leapinglizard-ga on 04 Nov 2004 16:08 PST
According to my research, there is no such thing as rectal breathing.
The rectum is not capable of oxygen exchange in any known species.
Furthermore, the "featherbotty" turtles depicted on the page cited in
the preceding comment are clearly fictional, as are all the other
species on that website. They belong to a roleplaying world called


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