When active, sea turtles can hold their breath for several hours. However, they must return to the surface every few minutes to breathe. When resting, they can stay underwater for nearly 2 hours. In winter, they can hold their breath for up to 7 hours in cold water.
Because sea turtles don’t have gills or lungs, they can’t absorb oxygen from the water. These animals depend entirely on air to fulfill their requirement for oxygen. At the same time, they can stay underwater without breathing for about two hours!
Interesting, right? In this article, we will unleash more interesting information about the breathing pattern of sea turtles. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
For many reasons, sea turtles spend their lives both on land and underwater. So, you’ll find them both on land and underwater, swimming and diving for a long time.
Why do sea turtles stay underwater for so long?
Since they are cold-blooded, sea turtles have a slow metabolic rate. This slowed metabolism allows them to stay underwater for long periods of time.
Here are some more interesting facts about the respiratory system of sea turtles:
a) Sea turtles breathe on land
As mentioned earlier, they can’t absorb oxygen from the water like most fish. Because of the absence of gills, they must absorb oxygen from the air. Thus, they come to the ocean’s surface every now and then for the uptake of oxygen.
b) Sea turtles hold their breath while swimming
When swimming, sea turtles hold their breath for about 45 minutes to two hours. The average dive lasts 4 to five minutes, after which these animals swim to the surface to catch a breath.
c) The lower the activity, the longer sea turtles can hold their breath
Sea turtles can stay underwater for varying periods depending on the level of activity. For instance, they can hold their breath for about two hours when they are resting.
Did you know? When sleeping, they can stay underwater for up to 7 hours because it involves very little movement. ~ Oliver Ridley Project
d) Leatherback sea turtles can hold their breath for up to 7 hours
Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are the largest species of sea turtles and one of the giant reptiles in the world. They can easily hold their breath for up to 7 hours.
e) Loggerhead sea turtles hold their breath
Loggerhead sea turtles are giant marine reptiles found in the world’s oceans. They are the most common sea turtle found in North American waters.
The name “loggerhead” describes their distinctive, large heads. Loggerhead sea turtles can hold their breath for up to 2 hours.
f) Green sea turtles hold their breath
Green sea turtles cannot stay underwater for long periods. They can’t survive underwater without coming to the ocean’s surface to absorb oxygen.
This is one of the reasons why thousands of sea turtles die if accidentally caught in shrimp trawl nets.
On average, green sea turtles can stay underwater for 5-7 minutes before they need to surface for air.
Hawaiian green sea turtles can hold their breath for several hours underwater. However, their actual diving time depends on various factors such as their level of physical activity, water temperature, and depth.
For how long can snapping turtles hold their breath underwater?
Snapping turtles are reptiles and can stay underwater for prolonged periods. Research suggests that they can hold their breath for about 40 to 50 minutes.
They may move to the land to build nests and breed with female sea turtles.
Did you know? Snapping turtles are named after their aggressive nature and large size, i.e., 4.5 to 16 kg. ~ Britannica.com
Can Land Turtles Breathe in Water?
Yes, land turtles can breathe in water through their cloacal respiratory system. However, they need to come up to the surface to breathe air.
They can stay underwater for extended periods but eventually need to surface to get oxygen. Some turtles are more aquatic and have adaptations that allow them to stay underwater longer.
Turtles are equipped with several biological adaptations that enable them to hold their breath for prolonged periods, for example:
- Slow metabolism: Turtles have a slow metabolism that allows them to conserve oxygen and hold their breath for extended periods.
- Large and efficient lungs: Turtles have large, efficient lungs that can store a significant amount of air.
Thus, their oxygen storage helps them hold their breath and fulfill their oxygen requirement even while they are under the water.
- Specialized blood vessels: Turtles have specialized blood vessels that allow them to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide efficiently, enabling them to stay underwater longer.
- Physiological changes: Turtles can also slow their heart rate and redirect blood flow to essential organs to conserve oxygen.
- Controlled breathing: Some turtles can control their breathing and reduce the air they use underwater.
The length of time baby turtles can hold their breath varies depending on the species and age, but generally, it is shorter than for adult turtles.
Baby turtles have a higher metabolism and use more oxygen, so they need to come up for air more frequently.
Yes, Red-eared sliders can hold their breath underwater. Biological adaptations such as an efficient pair of lungs and specialized blood vessels enable them to conserve oxygen and remain submerged.
The length of time a red-eared slider can stay underwater depends on water temperature and overall health. On average, this animal can hold its breath for approximately 30 to 35 minutes.
Did you know? Red-eared sliders can hold their breath longer in cold water than in hot water. This is because their body requires a smaller amount of oxygen. ~ Source
Paint Sea turtles can hold their breath for about 30 hours.
Fun Fact: Research suggests that paint sea turtles can hold their breath for up to four months if temperatures fall below 37 degrees. ~ Latimes.com
On average, painted turtles can hold their breath for several minutes, but some individuals may be able to stay underwater for longer or shorter periods.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long can sea turtles stay on land?
Sea turtles cannot stay on land for more than a week. They retreat to the ocean for protection from predators.
Can sea turtles sleep underwater?
Yes, sea turtles can sleep underwater. They lower their heart rate and redirect blood flow to essential organs to conserve oxygen. This allows them to sleep underwater for as long as 7 hours.
Why can’t sea turtles live on land?
Sea turtles cannot live on land because they require water to breathe and regulate their body temperature. The hard shells of sea turtles provide limited mobility on land, making it difficult for them to move and feed.
How long can freshwater turtles hold their breath?
Freshwater turtles can hold their breath underwater for several hours. The actual length of time depends on factors such as water temperature, physical activity, and oxygen availability.
Sea turtles must come to the ocean surface to take in air every few minutes while active, but they can remain underwater for up to 2 hours while at rest.
Turtles can hold their breath for a long amount of time due to their slow metabolism, efficient lungs, specialized blood vessels, physiological changes, and controlled breathing.