By Stacey Venzel
Yes, turtles can be just as rude and gross as humans.
Farting, pooping, puking and burping are basic behaviors that can be a natural digestive process or suggest a turtle is ill.
Gas build-up in the stomach can make turtles fart. In fact, Brussels sprouts cause gas in turtles much like they do in humans. Popping bubbles sent up to the water’s surface from green sea turtle farts set off alarms at an aquarium in England when the reptiles were fed Christmas Brussels sprout treats!
A turtle’s food has to go somewhere, which becomes turtle poop. Turtles can have diarrhea, too. To learn more about sea turtles and their environment, researchers at The University of Queensland created poop-collecting hatchling swimsuits. The feces were then studied to determine turtle feeding grounds in an effort to allocate protection zones.
Turtles are capable of vomiting digested food and regurgitating undigested food that has not reached the stomach. In both instances, these are not normal behaviors but rather are suggestive of an infection.
Burping is caused by expelling air out through the mouth, a common biological function in humans and turtles. Leatherbacks have been noted to sound like they are burping when they lay their nest. Turtles might “burp” unexpectedly, expelling air when they defensively retract into their shell.
Carl J Franklin, Turtles: An Extraordinary Natural History 245 Million Years in the Making (St. Paul, Voyageur Press, 2007), 22-23.
University of Queensland, “Sea turtles don swim suits for science,” October 2, 2015,https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2015/10/sea-turtles-don-swimsuits-science.
Roger J Klingenberg, “Diseases and disorders in reptiles,” Merck Vet Manual, July 2011,http://www.merckvetmanual.com/pethealth/exotic_pets/reptiles/disorders_and_diseases_of_reptiles.html.
“Aquarium lowers water levels after feeding turtles brussel sprouts,” The Telegraph, December 15, 2009,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/6816697/Aquarium-lowers-water-levels-after-feeding-turtles-brussel-sprouts.html.