When a species of soft-shelled turtle in China piddles in puddles, it does so through its mouth—the first evidence of an animal doing so, a new study says.
The findings could also have stomach-churning implications for humans with kidney failure, scientists say.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore noticed Pelodiscus sinensis turtles would stick their heads into puddles of water and wiggle their tongues, but they weren’t drinking.
Study leader Yuen K. Ip and colleagues also knew that the soft-shelled turtle had structures similar to gills inside its mouth, which had previously been thought to help the turtle breathe—but did not actually function as gills.
“However, I saw a controversy here,” Ip said via e-mail. “If the turtle has lungs, why would it need to submerge its head in water [to breathe]?”