A Chinese Turtle that Pees Through its Mouth

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A Chinese Turtle that Pees Through its Mouth

Urea, which comes from decomposing proteins, is a common component of fertilizer. Pelodiscus sinensis, a Chinese soft-shelled turtle, urinates through its mouth to pass urea.

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How cool would it be if you could pee through your mouth? Actually, it doesn't sound appealing at all. But scientists have discovered a Chinese soft-shelled turtle that can do just that. Its name is Pelodiscus sinensis, and it comes equipped with unusual gill-like projections on its mouth [source: Choi].

The turtles typically live in salty swamps and marshes. Strangely, when they're on dry land, they often stick their heads in puddles. In fact, researchers discovered these turtles can submerge their heads underwater for as long as 100 minutes. They also found the turtles can pee about 50 times more urea through their mouths than from their rears [source: Choi].

So why are they doing this? Like humans, turtles need to wash out the urea their bodies create. Urea is a result of proteins that decompose in our bodies. Humans create the urine to do this by drinking fresh water. But the soft-shelled turtles can't simply drink some water, because they live in a salty environment, and saltwater's not good to drink. Scientists speculate that to solve this problem, the turtles get rid of their urea by sticking their heads in fresh water, like that found in puddles, and simply rinse the urea out through their mouths [source: Choi].

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