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Do Green Sea Turtles Breathe Air? (Exploring The Facts)

The Green Sea Turtle, also known as the Chelonia mydas, is an incredible species of sea turtle that has been swimming in our oceans for over 100 million years. This ancient creature can grow up to 3 feet in length and weigh up to 400 pounds!

But do you know how these animals breathe? Can they only breathe in the water, or do they have some unique adaptations that allow them to breathe air too?

In this article, we’ll discuss the answer to that question, as well as go into detail about the unique respiratory system of this magnificent sea turtle.

We’ll explore their ability to hold their breath for long periods of time underwater, as well as look at their air-breathing habits and the potential threats that may put these activities at risk.

So let’s dive right in and better understand our beloved Green Sea Turtle!

Here’s Do Green Sea Turtles Breathe Air?

Green sea turtles cannot breathe underwater, but they can hold their breath for long periods of time. When active, they must swim to the ocean surface to breathe every few minutes, while when resting they can remain underwater for up to 2 hours without breathing.

The Anatomy of a Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtles have an anatomy that sets them apart from other sea turtles and reptiles. Their streamlined bodies and flippers help them move seamlessly through the water, and their respiratory system allows them to stay underwater for extended periods of time.

This system starts with bronchi that extend into their body cavity, which are then filled with finger-like projections known as lamellae for increased gas exchange.

This enables the Green Sea Turtle to take in oxygen from the water – much like fish do with their gills – but they still need to come up for air occasionally due to their high need for oxygen levels.

The Green Sea Turtle’s respiratory capabilities are even more extraordinary when seen alongside its fellow sea turtles, as it has a larger, more developed bronchial system that enables it to remain submerged longer and dive deeper.

This is a key adaptation in helping protect them against potential predators and finding food in their habitat.

Green Sea Turtles Breathing Habits

Green Sea Turtles have intricate breathing habits that allow them to thrive in their aquatic habitat. In addition, their anatomy and adaption enable them to inhale air and water, which gives them an advantage.

Generally, Green Sea Turtles are underwater most of the time (up to 7 hours). However, they still need to come up for breath every 5-40 minutes. Then, they swim to the surface, breakthrough with their nose, and take several short breaths quickly before returning down in a matter of seconds. Of course, this also depends on factors such as activity level, water temperature, and air temperature.

The warmer the water temperature gets, the higher the oxygen levels require more frequent resurfacing for breaths of air. Still, colder temperatures result in less oxygen, forcing them underwater more often.

Human disturbance can pose a threat when these turtles try to come up for air since boats, etc., will cause difficulty getting to the surface.

Threats to Green Sea Turtle Breathing

Threats to breathing and overall survival are looming large for Green Sea Turtles, both in the water as well as on land. The need to understand these threats is essential for their conservation and protection.

First, human activity, such as boats and personal watercraft, can disturb the turtles’ natural ability to surface breathe and risk their lives. Then there’s plastic pollution which clogs up turtles’ airways, leading them to suffocate and die.

Secondly, their nesting sites can be destroyed by humans, making it hard for hatchlings to survive in numbers. Finally, climate change is another reason sea turtles have trouble respiratory-wise due to warm seas with lower oxygen concentrations that make it hard for them to retrieve needed oxygen from water.

Lastly, discarded fishing gear like discarded lines or nets can entangle Green Sea Turtles, significantly restricting their swimming abilities and breathing capacity – making them succumb to death or suffer serious injury – threatening their populations even further.


Green Sea Turtles are remarkable creatures with special anatomical and breathing capabilities that allow them to extract oxygen from both air and water.

Even though they possess these specialized adaptations, their habitats still remain challenged by human disturbance, plastic pollution, loss of nesting sites, and fishing gear entanglement.

Therefore, we need to reduce these threats and protect the Green Sea Turtle habitat for future generations.

Conservation efforts such as reducing plastic pollution, protecting nesting sites, and reducing human disturbance are critical to ensure that the species continues to thrive in its aquatic environment.

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