do reptiles breathe with lungs or gills

Do Reptiles Breathe with Lungs or Gills?

Reptiles have an incredibly diverse range of species and each species has their own way of breathing, so it can often be difficult to answer this question definitively. Some reptiles breathe with lungs, others breathe with gills and some have an even more unusual respiratory system.

Reptiles with Lungs

Most of the most commonly known reptiles, such as lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodiles, breathe with lungs. They use their lungs to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Reptiles with lungs possess a muscular diaphragm, similar to that found in humans and other mammals, which helps them to draw oxygen into their lungs.

Reptiles with Gills

There are two types of water-dwelling reptiles which breathe with gills, rather than lungs. These are the sea turtles and the marine iguanas, both of which have adapted to their aquatic environment. They have a special set of gills which are used to extract oxygen from the water and rid their bodies of carbon dioxide.

Unusual Respiratory Systems

In addition to the more common lungs and gills, there are some reptiles which possess very unusual respiratory systems. For example, skinks, amphisbaenians and other burrowing reptiles have special organs, known as “tuberculate lungs”, which are designed to absorb oxygen through the skin. They do not have a traditional diaphragm and do not require air to breathe.


In conclusion, whether reptiles breathe with lungs or gills depends on the specific species. Some reptiles have adapted to their environment in order to survive and have developed unique respiratory systems. This diversity demonstrates just how remarkable the species is and how adaptable they can be.

Reptiles with Lungs:

  • Lizards
  • Snakes
  • Turtles
  • Crocodiles

Reptiles with Gills:

  • Sea Turtles
  • Marine Iguanas

Unusual Respiratory Systems:

  • Skinks
  • Amphisbaenians
  • Burrowing Reptiles

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