10 Best Methods, How tortoises breathe?

Now, in this article, we are going to explore “How tortoises breathe?” and how these little creatures have evolved by the time that they managed to explore almost all areas of the world. This is a very informative article for all of you guys. I hope you will get to know a lot from this. Also, many of your perceptions are going to be clear. 

How did tortoise breathing evolve?

If you think that tortoises breathing is similar to us, then you are facing a myth. One thing is we don’t bear a shell or scales on our body so they cannot breathe following the traditional mechanism of expanding lungs in their ribs because that’s quite difficult for them because of weight.

The most amazing and puzzling thing is that the tortoises have locked their ribs inside their heavy shells, thus it makes the breathing process quite complicated. Now the thing is they don’t have a structure from their very origin in which the ribs were located inside the shell. That’s the answer to this question: “how tortoise breath?”

Researchers say that they found a fossil of Eunotosaurus Africanus, which is now I guess we called South Africa in which they found the species has a thorax which can be expanded and they found ribs which were overlapping instead of the hard rigid shell.

But the overlapping of ribs strongly voted towards not moving the ribcage freely. Also, researchers could not find any hard shells in the fossil. The creatures with the shell are found after 50 million years of Eunotosaurus. 

Eunotosaurus basically connects the dots of the morphology of the early reptiles and the tortoises that exist today. So, the fossil study concludes that the hardening of the shell of the tortoises and diminishing of the rib cage is that they transferred the function of the rib cage to their muscles performing the functions of respiration.

How tortoises breathe? Breath like a tortoise

Okay, so we have listened about several calming breathing exercises that regulate anxiety reduces pressure on the mind and body as well. The secret lies in you having to breathe more in your one breath because that delivers more oxygen to your blood which ultimately provides nutrition to the vital organs.

You know we breathe less when we grow older or become extremely lazy. That’s where you need to regulate your breathing because it really matters. When you breathe deeply that means air is passing deep down through you reaching your abdomen regulates heartbeat and releases stress.

Our emotions play a vital part too in our breathing patterns. You breathe differently when you are angry, sad, happy or excited. Breathing is very rapid and shallow when we are angry or excited. So who does it? Obviously the brain is the posterior part of the cerebrum; the thinking guru.

Why do we relate the healthy breathing to the tortoise because they live for very long and the secret lies in their breathing pattern because they breathe more per breath.

This breathing technique is basically invented by Chinese and it’s called “Qi Kong or Chu king”, they use it while meditating. It basically involves swallowing your breath so that breathing becomes very slow just like a tortoise. By practicing this technique, you can slow down breathing up to 3 or 4 breaths per minute. So, we are now very clear how tortoises breathe?

How do turtles breathe underwater?

Turtles don’t actually breathe underwater they need air to catch a breath and therefore you often see them on surfaces. But they can stay underwater for longer periods and for that they have specific adaptations. They have evolved themselves so efficiently that they can even absorb oxygen from their bodies.

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Breathing mechanism of  turtles:

Like our nostrils turtles breathe air through special structures called nares which are present above their faces. The air flows through a specific structure called glottis like the epiglottis to the trachea.

 To mention here unlike our trachea a turtle’s trachea is flexible which enables them to move their head inside and outside of their shell. When trachea reaches their heart it gets further subdivided into two tubules that deliver oxygen to the lungs so that it can be absorbed into the body.

Contrary to our ribs a turtle’s shell cannot expand and contract itself and as their lungs are present in there so to move air around the whole body there are specific muscles that expand and contract instead of the shell for the complete air circulation.

Turtle Underwater sleeping:

As turtles are ectothermic animals their metabolic rate depends on the temperature fluctuations in the external environment. Therefore, in the day time, you will see them more active and vigilant but as soon the temperature gets down they will become lazier because of low metabolic rate.

Some larger species don’t even have to bury themselves like the alligator turtle and they simply hibernate themselves underwater. During hibernation, they reduce their activity level to zero and their heartbeat becomes very slow. During this period, they breathe using the fats they had stored in the summer season (Anaerobic respiration). This technique may fulfill the process of respiration but it comes with a drawback which is the piling up of lactic acid in the body.

To reduce the acid level, the shell secretes certain carbonates into the body which neutralizes the acidic effect.

Absorption of oxygen:

Some rare species of turtles have enabled them to evolve specific muscles that can absorb oxygen while they are underwater enabling them to respire in the water without coming up on the surface. The period in which they stay underwater depends upon the temperature and the breed of a turtle. 

Some turtles can remain underwater for 7 hours while the hibernating ones can stay underwater for months. And this is how we clearly understand this query how tortoises breathe?

To your amaze turtles also breathe from their back through a structure called cloaca which empties the bladder. The cloaca allows movement of water inside and outside the body. As cloaca has blood vessels in it, it allows the absorption of oxygen. 

How to do tortoise breathing exercise:

The following are the steps that you can follow to efficiently do a tortoise breathing exercise. These will help you a lot in clearing your concept of how tortoises breathe? also how they do their breathing exercises.


  • Start by calming yourself either by sitting or lying. Now take a deep and slow breath until you feel the air to your neck.
  • Now mimic the process of swallowing and swallow the inhaled breath.
  • Now blow the air out through your nose, don’t use your mouth slowly and deeply. Repeat the above three steps eight times.
  • Now it may sound corny but you have to keep going. Now you have to swallow your saliva after the eighth breath and keep swallowing it by collecting your saliva through your tongue.

Benefits of deep breathing:

  • How tortoises breathe? The better you breathe more the energy you can feel in yourself.
  • It reduces depression, anxiety and pressure you feel on your body and makes you think more deeply.
  • Deeper breaths also promote better digestion.
  • The deeper breathing makes you live more at the moment. It enables you to connect with the present situation.

Turtles and tortoise breathing techniques

In the previous article, we have discussed the whole sleeping patterns and characteristics of hibernation of both turtles and tortoises and I hope that it may have cleared several queries of people. Most turtles and tortoises live underwater or on land and they both need air to exchange gases. They have devised several ways for breathing these are: 

Many people still don’t have a clear image of turtles and tortoises. You can get this information from our previous article which is on the topic of differences between tortoises and turtles. 

Pumping through one cheek:

The process is also called “buccal pumping”. In it, the turtle moves a structure present beneath their mouth in a repeated manner. It’s the only way to inflate their lungs.

Absorption of oxygen:

Some turtles have specialized blood vessels in the cloaca. They move water into the cloaca and the veins can absorb oxygen through it.

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Question and answers

All of these questions will help you in solving your problem and inform you about how tortoises breathe?. Also, you can get to know a few more questions that are very clear. 

How do tortoises breathe in water?

 Though tortoises don’t generally go underwater as they are terrestrial creatures.  Some have specific muscles present on their body through which they can exchange oxygen. In hibernation, they breathe through anaerobic respiration. Some also do cloacal respiration. 

How do tortoise breath on land?

As they have solid shells on their back and also bear scales on their body. Breathing is not very easy and similar to tortoises like all other animals do. Through their throat, they make a wide opening, and by constantly contracting and releasing their throat muscles they breathe. they are dependent on their muscular movement for breathing.

How many times tortoise breath?

 Tortoises have a very heavy shell on their body. They also have scales on their body. Breathing is a quite heavy and difficult process for them, therefore they breathe very slowly. Tortoise breath 3-4 times in a minute. Their breathing skills have inspired many humans to practice the way they breathe to increase their lifespan because tortoises can live for 150 years.

At the end, I just now hope from you guys that you can now have a better understanding of your several queries related to the tortoise. Although, if you have a pet tortoise this article is going to help you a lot. if you want to know further about tortoises like How long do tortoise live?

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