How do our turtles survive the winter?


Well the answer is simple, by hibernating. But, the hibernation itself is a little more interesting. To prepare for winter hibernating animals build up large fat reserves then lower their metabolic rate so that they can sleep through the colder months when food is scarce using the fat they’ve built up to keep themselves alive. However, turtles and frogs hibernate underwater for month after month. That’s a long time to have to hold your breath. You might be asking yourself “how do they do it” and I’ll tell you, but first I’m going to talk a little about the water itself.


Did you know that water reaches its densest point at 39 degrees Fahrenheit? What that means is that when the water temperature gets to 39 degrees it sinks and anything warmer or colder rises. This is important because it means that below the freezing line the temperature of the water stays relatively constant and it’s at this level where turtles hibernate. If the water were warmer, the turtles would use much more oxygen and if it were colder, their cells which are comprised of mostly water would freeze and they would die. Being able to hibernate in this perfect zone for conserving oxygen is crucial, but not all that is needed for the turtle to survive, believe it or not turtles can actually breathe underwater. They absorb oxygen through their throat which is lined with cells that permit water to be extracted from the water. Interestingly, they have the same type of cells around their behind. Yes turtles breathe through their behind, I know it’s a little funny but it’s just how they’ve evolved to do it.

Even though they can breathe underwater and lower their metabolism this still isn’t enough to keep them alive through the winter. The turtle lies completely still but the processes its body is going through are still creating Lactic Acid which after a little builds up and becomes toxic and in the end it kills the turtle, or it would if turtles weren’t able to dissolve minute amounts of calcium salts that are located in their shell into the bloodstream, these salts effectively neutralize the lactic acid and preventing deadly buildup.


As you can see there is a lot that hibernating underwater successfully requires, and it’s no simple task. Turtles really are amazing creatures and they are a rewarding pet to have in a pond.

Hopefully reading this has given you a greater appreciation for your Turtles. Thanks for reading and happy ponding!

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