Air Flow Into The Lungs Must Follow Which Path How Do Turtle Eggs Breath?

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How Do Turtle Eggs Breath?

A sea turtle nests between several inches (15 cm or more) to yards (1 m) below the surface of the sand. Temperature moderates as depth increases, both in absolute value and diurnal variation. Although the sand dries near the surface, the water content of the sand remains constant up to the depth of the nest. Getting enough oxygen to carry out metabolic processes and getting rid of the carbon dioxide produced in respiration is the main problem of the clutch of eggs. Oxygen is transported into the air and sand surrounding the nest through a process known as diffusion. Carbon dioxide is transported in the same way.

Fick’s law of diffusion defines the process. The movement of material by diffusion depends on the driving force existing between the region of high concentration and the region of low concentration, and the resistance of the path between source and sink. In the case of turtle nests, sand provides most of the resistance because the eggshell is relatively porous to the flow of gases. In some cases the metabolism of the bacteria in the sand causes oxygen to drop from 20.9% in air to 20.4% in sand and to 12 – 14% in the middle of the clutch before hatching. However, the oxygen level in the clutch is similar to the alveoli in the human lungs.

One of the reasons leatherback turtles lay their eggs during the dry season is because the dry layer that forms on the surface of the sand facilitates the easier transport of gases between the air and the nest. Olive Ridley nests on beach arribada experience low oxygen levels because beach nest densities are high and broken eggs are destroyed during arribada.

It is amazing that a clutch of sea turtle eggs can be buried 10 – 36 inches under sand. Oxygen must diffuse from the air down into the sand and egg. Carbon dioxide must go in the opposite direction. A developing sea turtle embryo breathes through its shell much like a chicken embryo, whose shell contains the same amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide as human lungs. Sea turtle eggs have similar internal gas concentrations, but there are differences. The shell of a turtle egg is very porous, which facilitates the movement of air, while a chicken egg is very resistant. The gas concentration in sea turtle eggs is set by the speed at which air can move through the sand and into the egg. Oxygen filters through about three feet of sand, through pores in the sand grains, then through the eggs in the clutch, and finally into the egg in the center of the clutch. The main barrier is the rate of air movement between the sand particles. That three-foot layer of sand is essentially a chicken eggshell or human air passing through the lungs. It serves as a respiratory passage for the sea turtle egg.

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