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Animals Nature

How the Mary River Turtle breathes for 72 hours underwater

The Mary River Turtle is a remarkable creature for two main reasons.

One, it possesses specialized glands on its bottom that allow it to stay underwater for 72 hours—yes, it breathes through its genitals. It does this by releasing oxygen bubbles through its cloaca, the hole (aka butt) it excretes waste through.

Two, the animal sports an algae-infused mohawk. It uses the algae growing on its shell to camouflage itself from predators. The Mary River turtle is easily one of Australia’s largest turtles extending beyond 20 inches in carapace length.

The turtle lives exclusively in Mary River streams in southeastern Queensland, Australia, where it’s listed as one of the world’s most vulnerable reptiles. The species is listed as endangered due to its limited home range and numerous threats posed by humans, such as pollution, habitat loss, poaching, and boat strikes.

A number of organizations are working to protect the species, including the Australian Department of the Environment, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, and the World Wildlife Fund.

The Mary River turtle’s sighting is becoming increasingly rare, and it’s important to help the species survive for future generations to come.

The Mary River Turtle
Photo: Chris Van Wyk
The Mary River Turtle
Photo: Chris Van Wyk
Photo: Chris Van Wyk