Reptiles are closely related to amphibians, but can lay their eggs on land and do not rely on water to reproduce. They also have tougher skin and lungs, and can remain in drier areas for longer. However, all reptiles (even ones that live in the desert) will need regular and reliable access to water to survive. Freshwater turtles rely on water not just to keep them hydrated, but for other parts of their life cycle too.


Water Relationships

As mentioned already, all reptiles need water to survive, but freshwater reptiles need more than desert reptiles since their food is reliant on water. Freshwater turtles also use deep water to brumate. Brumation is when reptiles’ systems shut down to preserve heat and energy in extreme cold temperatures. Freshwater turtles do not spend much time in lakes, and instead prefer to stick to marshes and streams where they can access dry land more easily.

Riverbank and Shoreline Relationships

These animals depend on the shoreline and riverbanks to lay their eggs. Turtles use land to rest, and enter the water to escape land predators, so they need access to intact shorelines and riverbanks to climb in and out of the water safely.

Blandings Turtle basking on a log in a pristine stream of northern Illinois.

Plant Relationships

Though not all freshwater reptiles eat plants, some rely on plants as a big part of their diet. They can even eat invasive plants and in this way help prevent them from taking over certain areas of their ecosystem!

Relationships with Other Animals

Since these animals sit in the middle of the food web, their presence ensures there is enough food for their predators, but also ensures that populations of the animals they eat will stay in check. Making sure they are healthy is super important for the health of a freshwater ecosystem!

painted turtle

Weather Relationships

These animals depend on shallower waters like streams and marshes to move around easily, hunt, and brumate. If shallow waters are flooded, these animals may be forced to move. In more extreme cold weather, these animals enter brumation, where their systems slow down to conserve energy. They can't stay in this state forever, however - they will need temperatures to go back to normal so they can start eating again.

Record your Research

  • Gather information about relationships the animal has with other living things and nonliving parts of its water ecosystem. 
  • Describe any relationships you noticed when visiting a lake, river, or wetland.