Written by Lola Gayle

Did you know that some species of turtles can actually “breathe” through their butt? Laugh all you want, but it’s an actual fact.

Esther Inglis-Arkell of io9.com explains that species like the Australian Fitzroy river turtle and the North American eastern painted turtle can breathe through the back end, even though both turtles can breathe through their mouths if they want to.

According to the Center for Northern Woodlands Education, it mostly has to do with hibernation.

These turtles possess a cloaca, not really an anus, but an anus-like systems which serves as a “mating and egg-laying opening, as well as one through which urinary and digestive wastes escape into the surrounding water. It’s a good design that has served these animals well for millions of years.”

Additionally, “The cloaca of some kinds of freshwater turtles, such as our eastern painted turtle, has fingerlike extensions that are abundantly supplied with blood vessels. The muscular walls of the cloaca contract and relax forcing water in and out of the chamber. If a painted turtle hibernates in a pond where some dissolved oxygen is available, the cloaca will serve as a respiratory device. As a substitute ‘lung,’ the cloaca allows for the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide between animal and the surrounding water.”

The world champion butt-breather is an Australian river turtle that breathes through its rear end almost all the time.

So the next time you meet a turtle, you may want to greet him from the front side.

What does this have to do with STEM and STEAM education?

By teaching kids about turtles, you are teaching them about science and nature. Formal and home classrooms can benefit greatly from the study of animals. Kids always love animals, from soft and fluffy to icky and sticky. Use the animal kingdom to bring out that childlike sense of wonder. They’ll learn from it and so will you!

Herpetology is a branch of zoology concerned with the study of amphibians (including frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts) and reptiles (including snakes, lizards, turtles, terrapins, tortoises, crocodilians). Batrachology is a further subdiscipline of herpetology concerned with the study of amphibians alone.

Zoology, or animal biology, is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct, and how they interact with their ecosystems.

Image Credit: Jmalik/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This post is also available at STEAMRegister.com