Wild Fact #189 – When You Gotta Go…You Gotta Go – Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle

Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle

Did You Know?

  • The Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle is the only known animal that urinates through their mouth (yes, you read that right!)
  • While this turtle may enjoy spending some quality time basking in the sun, the majority of their day is spent buried in the sand of their favourite watering hole
  • Throughout Japan, the Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle is known to hibernate between October and April
  • This turtle species has a long snout with tube-like nostrils, which they use as a “snorkel” in shallow water

A Brackish Habitat

Okay, I am sure you are curious about their urinating adaptation, however, before we discuss this unique characteristic, it is important to understand this turtle’s habitat. The Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle is native to China, North Vietnam and Japan, however, they have also been introduced to a variety of locations including Malaysia, Thailand, Guam and even California and Virginia. Throughout their distribution range they can typically be found frequenting slow moving, brackish waters. This includes rivers, creeks, ponds, marshes and even rice paddies. It is this habitat that lead to their fascinating adaptation that allows them to expel urea through their mouth.Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle Peeing

Never Have to Worry About Peeing Your Pants

As a result of residing in a partially salt-water system, the Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle evolved a way to dispel urea through their mouth. Before we get into how this helps the turtle survive, it is important to note that the urea actually makes its way to the turtles mouth through their blood, so it isn’t exactly the same as urination, however, the end result is the same. If these turtles relied solely on their kidney’s to dispel the harmful urea, they would be required to drink a lot of water or else risk dehydration (much like humans). Unfortunately, they are surrounded by salt water, which we all know is not a good thing to drink since turtles (and all reptiles) are not able to pass salt through their urine. To make a long story short (at least shorter), if these turtle use the ol’ fashioned kidney way to dispel their urea, they would eventually die from an overload of salt.

Did You Know: The Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle is the only animal to urinate from their mouth <—- Click Tweet This

Leaving a Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Luckily, the Chinese Soft-Shelled Turtle has developed a gene that allows them to spit out the urea through their mouth. This process is triggered when the turtle rinses their mouth with salt water, however, their is no need for them to drink this potentially deadly water, they just need to rinse. This fascinating adaptation has no doubt allowed the soft-shelled turtle to inhabit their salt-water environment showing us once again that nature truly is amazing.

Source: National Geographic

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