Humans use their tongues for one purpose – and that is to taste. Unlike humans, there is one kind of turtle that uses its tongue for one other purpose than eating. It uses its tongue to breathe underwater.
A new study released recently states that Sternotherus Odoratus also known as the Common Musk Turtle breathes underwater using its tongue. How the Common Musk Turtle breathes underwater has been a much discussed topic amongst scientists. There are other types of turtles that breathe underwater, like the Australian side neck turtle. They however do not use their tongues – instead, they have a special cavity located on their rear ends that extract oxygen from the water they are in.
Egon Heiss, Zoologist, University of Vienna said that they knew the Common Musk Turtle had a particular organ for breathing underwater, but discovering it had been a long drawn out ordeal, and said they had finally discovered it quite by accident.
Incidentally, Common Musk Turtles do not use their tongues to eat. This was noticed by Heiss and his team of scientists while observing a few baby Musk Turtles gather their food. They noted that the turtles did not eat their food on land, and instead pulled it into the water before eating it. This observation made them look even closer at the Common Musk Turtle’s tongue and oral cavity.
Studies showed that the Common Musk Turtle’s tongue was tiny and fairly weak. The surface of the tongue had cells – papillae. These cells help the turtle pull in oxygen from the water.