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Word of the Week: Cloaca
November 22, 2019 by Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Houdini theTurtle by Tanguy Coignion

Cloaca (zoology noun) [kloh-EY-kuh]: The common cavity into which the intestinal, urinary, and generative canals open in birds, reptiles, amphibians, many fish, and certain mammals.

This fun word comes from the Latin verb, cluo which means “to cleanse” making to so that the noun cloaca in Latin refers to the words “sewer or drains.”

For cold-blooded animals, the drop in temperature happening in their environment also means a drop in internal temperature and metabolic activity and that is certainly the case for High Park’s resident turtles.

When a turtle is in this slowed-metabolism hibernation period, they have lower energy and oxygen demands. As such, they rely the energy stored in their bodies and uptake oxygen from the pond water, by moving the water across the surfaces of their bodies that have more blood vessels. This ensures that they can get enough oxygen to survive the winter without having to use their lungs. One of the parts of their bodies which is especially well vascularized is their cloaca. They will diffuse oxygen in and carbon dioxide out by a process call cloacal respiration, which more simply means that their main source of oxygen is through their butt!

We can expect that there won’t be any turtle sightings in the park anytime soon, unless you end up stopping by the High Park Nature Centre to say hello to our resident Red-Eared Slider, Houdini!

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