How Do Turtles Drink Water?

When I got the question “how do turtles drink water”, I had no idea how to answer. After a thorough online research, this is what I found out.

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First, I had to learn that there is a difference between turtles and tortoises. They are both reptiles and belong to the same scientific order called Testudines but differ in specific characteristics and habitats.

There are many species of turtles. In this post, I’m discussing aquatic turtles only and will write separately about terrestrial turtles, commonly known as tortoises.

Aquatic turtles typically have a lightweight shell, which is usually flat and streamlined to help them in the water, and have webbed feet or flippers for swimming.

Now let’s see

How Do Turtles Drink Water

Whether we talk about aquatic or terrestrial turtles, we can say these animals have intriguing methods of acquiring water that aligns with their respective habitats.

Well, aquatic turtles don’t drink water directly through their mouths like many other animals. Instead, they absorb water. This process is called “cloacal drinking.”

The “cloaca” is a multipurpose opening located near the tail of the turtle. It serves as the exit for both waste and reproductive products. When aquatic turtles are submerged in water, they can draw water into their cloaca by contracting their cloacal muscles. The water then passes through a network of blood vessels in the cloaca, where it is absorbed. In other words, turtles have the ability to drink water while swimming.

This cloacal drinking method allows turtles to obtain water while minimizing the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria or impurities that may be present in the water. By absorbing water through their cloacas, aquatic turtles can stay hydrated without the need to take in water orally.

The cloacal drinking is not enough for aquatic turtles though. To maintain their overall hydration, they need to consume food too. To fulfill their hydration requirements, they need aquatic plants, invertebrates, and other prey items because these all contain some amount of water that contributes to the turtle’s hydration requirements.

Hope it helps to understand how turtles drink water.


Featured image credit:
Photo by Kris-Mikael Krister on Unsplash

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