How Long Can a Snapping Turtle Stay Underwater?

Have you ever wondered how long a snapping turtle can stay underwater? These fascinating creatures are known for their powerful jaws and slow movements, but they are also skilled swimmers and can hold their breath for impressive amounts of time.

Snapping turtles can stay underwater for up to 45 minutes at a time. This is made possible by a few key adaptations that allow them to conserve oxygen and regulate their heart rate while submerged. These adaptations include the ability to slow down their metabolism and redirect blood flow to their muscles and organs that need it the most.

Understanding how snapping turtles can stay underwater for such long periods of time can teach us a lot about the incredible adaptations that animals make to survive in their environments. So, let’s dive deeper and explore the world of the snapping turtle, from their unique physiology to their fascinating behaviors and habits.

Anatomy of Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtles have a shell that protects their body and head, which can retract into their shell when they feel threatened. They also have webbed feet that help them swim, as well as long tails that aid in propulsion.

One of the most unique features of snapping turtles is their powerful jaws. These turtles have a sharp beak that they use to catch and eat prey. Their jaws are so strong that they can snap a broom handle in half! Snapping turtles also have a highly developed sense of smell, which they use to locate food underwater.

How Long Can a Snapping Turtle Stay Underwater?

Snapping turtles are well-adapted to life in the water and can stay underwater for extended periods. On average, a snapping turtle can stay underwater for 45 minutes to one hour.

However, some turtles have been known to stay underwater for several hours. The ability to hold their breath for so long allows them to remain hidden from predators and sneak up on their prey.

How Do Snapping Turtles Breathe Underwater?

Snapping turtles are air-breathing reptiles, but they can hold their breath for extended periods while submerged. When a snapping turtle is underwater, they absorb oxygen through their skin and the lining of their mouth and throat. This process, known as cutaneous respiration, allows them to obtain the oxygen they need to survive.

In addition to cutaneous respiration, snapping turtles have a unique adaptation that allows them to stay underwater for longer. These turtles can lower their heart rate to conserve oxygen, which helps them stay underwater for extended periods.

What Do Snapping Turtles Eat Underwater?

When it comes to underwater feeding, snapping turtles use their powerful jaws to capture prey. They have a unique hunting strategy that involves lying in wait on the bottom of a body of water and using their long necks to rapidly extend their head and snap their jaws shut on passing prey.

Some of the common underwater prey items that snapping turtles consume include fish, crayfish, tadpoles, frogs, and aquatic insects. They will also scavenge on dead animals that they find in the water.

Do Snapping Turtles Make Good Pets?

Snapping turtles may be fascinating creatures, but they are not suitable as pets for the average person. Snapping turtles are wild animals, and their aggressive nature can make them dangerous to handle.

In addition to their aggressive behavior, snapping turtles require specific care to thrive. They need a large and secure enclosure with access to both water and land, as well as a diet that includes a variety of live prey. Providing proper care for a snapping turtle can be expensive and time-consuming.

How Long Can Snapping Turtles Stay Out of Water?

Snapping turtles are known for their ability to stay out of water for extended periods. In fact, snapping turtles can survive for up to several months without water, depending on the environmental conditions. However, it is important to note that snapping turtles still need access to water for hydration and to regulate their body temperature.

Factors That Affect How Long Snapping Turtles Can Stay Out of Water

While snapping turtles are capable of surviving for long periods without water, there are several factors that can affect how long they can stay out of water. These factors include:

  • Temperature: Snapping turtles are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. In cooler temperatures, they may become sluggish and less active, which can affect their ability to survive without water.
  • Humidity: Snapping turtles can become dehydrated in dry environments, so high humidity is important for their survival.
  • Size: Larger snapping turtles have a higher body mass, which means they can store more water and survive for longer periods without access to water.

Final Thoughts

Snapping turtles are semi-aquatic creatures, meaning they spend a significant portion of their lives in the water. Snapping turtles are remarkable creatures that are well-suited to life in the water. They have adapted to their environment in many ways, including their ability to hold their breath for extended periods of time while hunting and traveling underwater.

However, they are also capable of spending long periods on land. While most turtles require water to survive, snapping turtles are more adaptable and can live in a variety of environments.

If you’re interested in learning more about snapping turtles, or are considering getting one as a pet, it’s important to do your research and make sure you’re prepared for the unique challenges that come with caring for these animals.


Can baby snapping turtles breathe underwater?

Yes, baby snapping turtles can breathe underwater through specialized structures called cloacal bursae. These structures allow them to extract oxygen from the water while submerged.

How long can baby snapping turtles hold their breath?

Baby snapping turtles can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes, which is much longer than many other aquatic turtle species.

Can adult snapping turtles breathe underwater?

While adult snapping turtles cannot breathe underwater, they can hold their breath for extended periods of time. They are able to extract oxygen from the water through their skin and the lining of their mouth, but they still need to surface to breathe air.

Do snapping turtles need to come to the surface frequently to breathe air?

Yes, snapping turtles need to come to the surface frequently to breathe air, regardless of their age. This is because they are not capable of extracting enough oxygen from the water to sustain their needs for an extended period of time.

What happens if a snapping turtle cannot reach the surface to breathe?

If a snapping turtle is unable to reach the surface to breathe, it can suffocate and die. Therefore, it is important to provide them with a basking area or access to the surface of the water to ensure they can breathe properly.