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How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 1-7 Hours

There are many shocking facts about animals and birds that we don’t know about. If we look at the aquatic animals, it makes many people curious as we wonder how they can always live in water. Turtles are one of those animals that have some interesting qualities. Turtles can’t breathe underwater, even though they spend a lot of time there.

Turtles, on the other hand, have developed to be able to hold their breath for extended amounts of time, allowing them to stay underwater for considerably longer periods than humans. We need to discuss turtle respiration and swimming habits before we look at the specific times. Turtles are predominantly land animals, despite spending a significant amount of time underwater. They will perish if they remain submerged indefinitely.

How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath?

ActivityDuration For Holding Breath
While Moving1-7 Hours
While Sleeping30-35 Minutes

Humans cannot stay underwater for as long as turtles. Turtles most likely evolved this way because water provides plenty of food and hiding spots for predatory animals. Turtles can also move significantly faster underwater, making it easier for them to evade predators.

Let’s discuss the length of time turtles can hold their breath. The length of a turtle is determined by its age, variety, and overall health. Baby and elderly turtles, in general, are unable to hold their breath for as long as healthy mature turtles. Sea turtles have also been observed to hold their breath for far longer than freshwater turtles.

The length of time a turtle can hold its breath depends on its activity and rest. Sleeping underwater, travelling underwater, or hibernating underwater are the three basic scenarios in which a turtle may find itself while holding its breath.

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The metabolic rate of a turtle, like that of any other animal, slows as it sleeps. As a result, when the turtle is asleep, it only needs to breathe once or twice. Your freshwater turtle can hold its breath for a little more than an hour if it is asleep underwater. When they’re sleeping, sea turtles may stay underwater for even longer. 

Most sea turtles can sleep for four to seven hours underwater without needing to surface for air. Because its body functions are completely utilised when the turtle is moving, it needs to come up for air more frequently. Many freshwater animals can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes, however, some species can only hold their breath for roughly 30 minutes.

Why Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath For That Long?

Turtles can hold their breath underwater for much longer than humans, as we’ve already discussed. This is due to three key factors. To begin with, turtles have a completely different respiratory, skeletal, and muscular system than humans, which allows them to breathe more easily.

The second reason turtles can hold their breath for such a long time underwater is that some species, particularly freshwater turtles, can absorb oxygen through their cloaca, which is a multipurpose cavity present in many vertebrates and invertebrates. They can absorb all of the oxygen they require through their cloaca, which means they don’t need to breathe.

The presence of external nares above the mouth is the third reason turtles can hold their breath for such a long time. The turtles do not need to come above the surface to breathe because their nares are above their mouth. They merely approach it with their nares exposed to the air. 

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As a result, even if it appears that the turtle is holding its breath, it is breathing. Sea turtles are significantly longer able to hold their breath. A sea turtle’s underwater breath-holding record is just over 7 hours. A leatherback sea turtle holds this world record.

Most turtles will not push their limits if they have the option. Most turtles will rather dive, swim for five minutes underwater, and then surface for a few seconds for breath. Even while the turtle can hold its breath for considerably longer, this only allows it to breathe more leisurely and swim at its own pace.

Conclusion

Turtles, like bears and other animals, hibernate. Many people are unaware of this fact. Some turtles, especially those situated in colder climates, really hibernate underwater. The metabolic rate of the turtle slows down during hibernation, requiring less food and oxygen to stay alive.

The length of time a turtle can hold its breath varies according to its age and species. While moving, the average time is 30 to 45 minutes, and while sleeping, it is one hour. Hibernating turtles, on the other hand, can spend even more time underwater because of their cloaca. If your turtle has been underwater for an extended period, it is either hibernating or drowning.

References

  1. https://www.int-res.com/abstracts/dao/v111/n3/p191-205/
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00211622
  3. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.1201/9780203737088-14/health-problems-diseases-sea-turtles-robert-george
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