What Animals Can Breathe Through Their Skin?

breathe, questions

Do you know?

Yes, it is true that some animals can actually breathe through their skin.  Do you know what animals have this ability?

Different animals breathe in different ways.  Fish breathe water by using their gills and humans breathe with their lungs.  But, there are a few animals that have the ability to simply absorb oxygen through their skin.  Some of these animals do live in the Rocky Mountains and others can be found throughout the world.

How Does Breathing Work?

Before I tell you what animals can breathe through their skin, first I want to explain how breathing works and why we do it.  This will help you understand how animals can breathe through their skin.

When we are breathing we are trying to get oxygen from the air that our body needs to function.  We take a deep breath, filling out lungs with air and oxygen.  Then deep down in our lungs the air passes into tiny balloon like sacks.  These are surrounded by blood vessels.

The oxygen passes into the blood, which then carry the oxygen to the heart. Then the heart pumps the blood with oxygen in it throughout the body so all parts of the body get the oxygen they need.

How Do Animals Breathe Through Their Skin?

Certain animals’ skin serves the same function as our lungs.  These animals have skin that is very thin and allows oxygen to pass through.  They have blood vessels close to the surface of their skin, which absorbs the oxygen.  That blood then carries the oxygen throughout the animals’ body.

In order for these animals to allow oxygen to pass through their skin they must keep their skin moist. Therefore, the animals that do this tend to live near water or underground.

These Animals Can Breathe Through Their Skin


All amphibians, including this frog, can breathe through their skin as adults.

Amphibians –  There are three main kinds of amphibians: salamanders, frogs, and toads.  As adults all have the ability to breathe through their skin.  Most breathe both through their skin and lungs.


This is a lungless clouded salamander from Oregon. Photo via Flickr.

However, some adult amphibians breathe only through their skin and are lungless.  One example is the Coeur D’Alene salamander, which is found in the Rocky Mountains.

breathe, earthworm

Look at that moist skin.

Earthworms – They live underground where they are able to keep their skin moist.  Earthworms do not have lungs and breathe only through their skin.  If they dry out they suffocate and die.  Read this to see what happens if you cut an earthworm in half.