AN AUSTRALIAN turtle has learned to breathe through its bottom. The freshwater Fitzroy River turtle (Rheodytes leukops) breathes normally above water, but can remain underwater for long periods by breathing through its combined genital and excretory opening, or cloaca, Craig Franklin of the University of Queensland, Brisbane, told the recent Society for Experimental Biology symposium at the University of Cambridge.

As the turtle pumps water through its cloaca, oxygen is extracted by a surrounding network of blood vessels. This allows it to remain submerged for up to three days to avoid predatory crocodiles,

from this months new scientist.