Hibernation and Aquatic Turtles

Turtles are God’s gift to nature. They are wonderful creatures that need to survive whole year round – even in winter. Aquatic turtles are cold-blooded and have to depend on their environment to maintain their body temperatures.

Extreme temperatures, however, would kill them. Turtles thrive at temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and temperatures that are above or below would endanger their lives. How do they survive cold temperatures? They survive the winter season through hibernation.

What is hibernation

Merriam-Webster defines hibernation as the “Passing the winter in a torpid condition in which the body temperature drops to a little above freezing and metabolic activity is reduced nearly to zero.”

During hibernation, the turtles go deeper into the pond or body of water to find a muddy spot, or to dig a hole for a home during winter. The turtles’ metabolism also slows down, and they go into “sleeping” states.

During summer, they feed on algae, snails, worms and tadpoles to get ready for the winter season. So when winter comes their bodies have enough nourishment until the next warm season.

Image credit: Creative Commons; en.wikipedia.org

When their metabolism slows down, respiration through their lungs also stops. They still need oxygen though, so their bodies adapt and oxygen is absorbed from the water directly through the skin linings of their mouths and throats.

Pond temperature

The temperature in a pond varies, with the bottom portion warmest during winter. The bottom of the pond has a stable temperature at 39 degrees, enough for the turtles to survive until spring. Water with a cooler temperature usually rises to the top, allowing the bottom temperature to maintain its warmer environment.

Other methods of survival

Brumation is another method of winter survival for aquatic turtles. This is the process used more commonly with aquatic pet turtles.

In brumation, they are alert but are slow in their physical and physiologic processes. Water and food are still needed but not as often as during summer time.

The moisture in their area should also be maintained. The survival of aquatic turtles seems to be complex, but a closer look would reveal that they use adaptation to their surrounding environment to survive all year round.

Mother Nature nurtures her biota and fauna, and the turtle is one of these wonderful creatures. This applies no matter what part of the world they may be found.

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