How Do Tortoises Drink Water?

When I researched the topic of how turtles drink water I learned that there are different types of turtles: aquatic and terrestrial. They are both reptiles and belong to the Testudines but their characteristics and habitats are different. Here I focus on the terrestrial turtles, or so called tortoises. Let’s see how tortoises drink water!

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I figured, there is a common misconception about tortoises drink water through their nostrils. Some other reptiles like alligators and crocodiles have specialized adaptations to drink water through their nostrils, but not the tortoises.

The water-drinking method of tortoises is different from aquatic turtles’ too. Similarly to many other animals, tortoises drink water through their mouths.

Depending on their habitats, they primarily drink from ponds, streams, puddles, or in the case of pet tortoises from water dishes provided by their keepers. Usually, they just dip their heads into the water. (Sometimes when they submerge their heads partially in the water, water can come into contact with their nostrils, but this is unintentional, and the main drinking action occurs through their mouths.) When there is a chance for doing so, it happens that they use their front legs to dig or scrape at the water’s edge to create a shallow pool when they approach the water source.

Once they get to the water, tortoises use their muscular tongues to create a suction-like motion. They extend their heads forward, dip their heads and mouths into the water, and suck it in. This action allows them to draw the water into their mouths and drink it. After they draw in the water, tortoises close their mouths and swallow. For reaching the optimal hydration level, they may repeat this process several times.

Just like aquatic turtles, tortoises need to consume some plants too which also contributes to their water intake.

If you have a pet tortoise make sure you always provide them with clean and fresh water so they can stay hydrated!


Featured image credit:
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

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