Can Turtles Smell Underwater?

african sideneck turtle swimming

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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You may not trust me. However, research has suggested that soft-shelled turtles have stronger nasal senses than dogs. No kidding! Does this mean turtles can smell underwater, too?

Turtles can smell underwater. Experts point out that turtles use their olfactory receptors to sense prey. They basically look for a specific scent coming from the algae or microorganism coat on food. Besides, they can pick up the odor of other turtles nearby, which helps them mate.

While smell is a reliable tool for turtles to hunt, it has become a curse. I have discussed more on this matter in the following article.

Key Takeaways

  • Turtles do not have a nose like humans. Instead, they use barbels to pick up scents.
  • The marine and aquatic turtles rely on their olfactory receptors to find a foraging spot.
  • Turtles also utilize their smelling capability to find a mate in the breeding season.

Can Turtles Smell Underwater?

Turtles can smell just fine both on land and underwater. These pets rely on their olfactory system to pick up chemical presence in the environment.

Say, for instance, if you release an insect in the water, the turtles will know immediately. How? It is because these reptiles can smell the prey.

All aquatic, semi-aquatic, land, and marine turtles have this smelling capability.

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Scientific proof implies that marine turtles depend on odors to locate the forging hotspot. It concludes how turtles can smell underwater and utilize their senses.

How Do Turtles Smell?

Turtles do not have a nose like us. Yet, they can smell food underwater or on land. Instead of nostrils, these creatures have barbels or bumps under their chins.

Barbels are basically sensory organs. Turtles not only use these bumps to pick up scents, but they also use them to locate food.

According to studies, 3 factors combined help the turtles smell and survive.

  1. First, the high-density olfactory nerves in the nasal cavity aid turtles in spotting their prey. Apparently, turtles develop a strong memory and recognize the food they have been eating for the past 5 months.
  2. The strong chemoreceptors assist in differentiating the food from other stuff. It is done by means of sensing the chemical fluids.
  3. Finally, the creatures use their barbels as a navigation tool and run towards the meal.
Owner: Elizabeth Nicole Hartin

Can Turtles Smell Food Underwater?

Turtles can smell underwater, and it is scientifically proven. Studies show that these reptiles respond to the scent of pellets or other food. At the same time, they stay neutral when a non-meal item is placed in their tank.

Like the aquatic turtles, the sea turtles depend on their olfactory to detect prey. Unfortunately, their natural trait has become a curse for them.

In one of my write-ups, I have talked about sea turtle’s diet. There, I have clearly mentioned how turtles are getting full on plastics. The previous belief was that the transparent appearance of plastic tricks these marine creatures. But recent studies have shown something else.

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Once plastic is thrown into the ocean, the air and water-borne bacteria take over the surface. And the result? The plastic starts smelling like food, attracting the marine turtles.

An extensive study on loggerhead sea turtles has backed up this theory. Here, the researchers have provided the captive turtles with foods of several categories. It includes clean plastic and pieces covered with water-borne organisms. Turtles were immediately attracted to the algae and microorganism-coated plastics.

This is indeed horrible!

The turtles can not differentiate between the poison and food. As a result, the endangered marine turtle species are getting even closer to extinction.

How Strong Is A Turtle’s Sense Of Smell Underwater?

As mentioned, turtles have a stronger sense of smell than dogs.

For instance, around 1137 olfactory receptor genes were discovered in softshell turtles.

So, yes. These creatures can sense food even from a long distance.

Even though turtles use their olfactory receptors to find their foraging ground and mating, this is never enough. These reptiles have to use their vision and navigation power to reach their destination.

Again, while turtles may recognize the scent of a shrimp or a worm, they can not spot new prey in the ecosystem. Not only that. Turtles are hardly familiar with the odor of their predators.

Can sea turtles smell?

Sea turtles can smell. They have nostrils on their heads for breathing. They also use these nostrils to detect scents. Their sense of smell helps them in many ways.

For example, they can smell to find food like jellyfish or seagrasses. Some believe they use smell to find the beaches where they were born. They return to these beaches to lay eggs. But, this idea needs more research.

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Even though they can smell, it’s not their main sense. They mostly use their eyes and touch to move around and find food.

can snapping turtles smell water?

Snapping turtles can smell. They use their noses to sense things in the water. This helps them find food and stay safe. They can smell especially well in dirty water where they can’t see much. But in clear water, they might use their eyes more than their noses. Different turtles might use their sense of smell in different ways.

can painted turtles smell?

Painted turtles can smell. They have special organs called Jacobson’s organs for this. These organs help them sense chemicals around them. They use this sense to find food, know other turtles, and sense danger.

Before You Go…

Turtles have really good senses. For instance, these creatures can pick up low-frequency noises and have a clear vision underwater. Besides, claims are that some turtles can actually see in the dark. Explore more about this interesting trait of turtles from the attached link.

Can Turtles See In The Dark?

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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