Do Turtles Yawn?

turtles yawning

Have you noticed your turtle yawning? Are you curious if turtles can even yawn, or if something else is going on when it appears to yawn?

Turtles can and do yawn. They will yawn whether in the water or out of the water. Sometimes they yawn to get extra oxygen or to drink water when underwater. Also, yawning may indicate some sort of health problem you should get checked out. 

You usually have nothing to fear if you see your turtles yawning. Now, if the turtle yawns a lot more than usual, then your turtle may have an easily curable medical problem. This article will go over absolutely everything about turtles yawning

A turtle yawning

Why Turtles Yawn?

Researchers still have not figured out why exactly turtles yawn. It still remains a mystery as to why humans yawn, so this is not particularly surprising in our opinion. Speculation points to the fact that turtles yawn when they need some more oxygen. However, recent studies have shown that turtles may yawn to regulate temperature more than for more oxygen. 

Have you noticed that turtles yawn far more often in warmer weather than colder weather?

So, the theory on this is that yawning adds oxygen to the bloodstream. The extra oxygen cools the blood, which will cool the brain because blood circulates to the brain. 

Yawning may indicate your turtle is tired. Yes, turtles are like humans in that regard and do yawn when they get tired. A proper climate for your turtle can ensure that your turtle does not get unnecessarily tired, though. 

Finally, an infection may trigger a turtle to do a motion that resembles yawning. The motion is the exact same, so you can identify an infection vs a yawn by the frequency of the yawning. 

If your turtle yawns a lot or continuously, then that’s an infection. 

The infection is normally caused by a lack of Vitamin A. Thankfully, it’s an easy infection to cure. First, make sure your turtle has more Vitamin A to prevent the infection. Curing the infection is as easy as giving your turtle antibiotics. 

Other indicators of an infection:

  • Gasping for breath. 
  • A lot of saliva in the mouth or drooling. 
  • Mucus coming out the eyes – this is a bad infection.
  • Low energy.
  • Swimming crooked.

As we went over above, preventing your turtle from getting an infection is easy. Basically, just feed your turtle pellets designed specifically for turtles and it will be fine. You can add some kale or other dark greens every few days as a supplement to the pellets as well.

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You can also feed them insects or other natural protein sources a few times a week. That should have enough Vitamin A to not cause any problems. 

Note: A solely iceberg lettuce diet is not sufficient for a turtle. Iceberg lettuce has pretty much no nutritional value to it. It’s fine to feed a turtle iceberg lettuce in addition to the food listed above, but nothing but iceberg lettuce is not sufficient. 

One last note, if your turtle has its mouth open for an extended period of time, then it probably has mouth rot. Mouth rot makes closing the jaw fairly painful, so the turtle will rest with it’s mouth open.

Mouth rot is fatal if left untreated, but can be treated fairly easily with some antibiotics. 

To summarize, turtles yawn for the following reasons:

  • It’s warm outside.
  • It needs more oxygen.
  • It’s tired.

A health related yawn is due to the following reasons:

  • It has an infection due to a Vitamin A deficiency.
  • Mouth rot.

Do Turtles Yawn Underwater?

Yes, turtles can and do a motion that appears like a yawn while underwater. The exact reasons for a turtle yawning underwater remain unknown, but the two reasons listed below are the most likely:

Drink Water

Turtles need to drink water… they are not fish. They can drink water by opening their mouth while underwater. This gives the appearance of a yawn, but it’s simply opening their mouth to drink water.


Turtles do not have a swim bladder like some fish. But they can adjust their buoyancy by swallowing water. Swallowing water releases some air, which will cause the turtle to lose some buoyancy. 

Do Turtles Breathe Underwater?

No, turtles do not breathe underwater – they are not fish. Many turtle owners probably think that turtles can breathe underwater because they can and do spend quite a lot of time underwater. 

Did you know that turtles can spend over 30 minutes underwater without having to go up for air?

It’s true. Turtles actually like spending their time underwater. 

Now, turtles can absorb a small amount of oxygen through their skin while underwater. It’s not enough oxygen to keep them underwater indefinitely like a fish, but it does help them stay submerged for a longer amount of time. 

Closing Thoughts

Turtles do yawn on occasion. If you watch your turtle for a long enough amount of time (as most turtle owners do), then you will see it yawn a few times

Yawning on its own is nothing to worry about. You should be concerned if you see other signs that indicate an infection. Even then an infection can easily be cleared up quickly by giving your turtle antibiotics for a few days. 

Of course, a turtle on a well-balanced diet should not have any infections. 

Now, a turtle that “yawns’ underwater should not cause concern. Your turtle simply wants to drink some water or reduce its buoyancy to stay underwater a little longer. 

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