Hibernating turtles don’t slip into a coma

Winterized red-eared sliders shut down their lungs but still respond to light

By Susan Milius, 12:36 PM October 9, 2013

A chilled, hibernating turtle that hasn’t taken a breath for two weeks still notices light, a new lab study shows.

That response contradicts a widespread notion that freshwater turtles overwintering under ice go into nonresponsive comas, says animal physiologist Jesper G. Madsen of Aarhus University in Denmark.

Many freshwater turtles avoid freezing during winter by retreating to the depths of lakes. When ice smothers the water, the air-breathing turtles can find themselves nearly starved for o...

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