Turtle Facts

Turtles are reptiles with hard shells that protect them from predators. They’re among the most primitive and earliest groups of reptiles, having evolved millions of years back. Turtles live throughout the world in every kind of climate.

According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the turtle order, Testudines (or Chelonia), divides into two suborders, Cryptodira and Pleurodira, then further divides into 13 families, 75 genera and over 300 species.

“Turtle,” “tortoise” and “terrapin” are often used interchangeably as synonyms, but there are distinct differences between the types of
chelonians, according to the San Diego Zoo:

Turtles spend most of their lives. They’re adapted with a body and feet or flippers. Sea turtles leave the sea, except to lay eggs.
Freshwater turtles reside in lakes and ponds and they climb out of the water to bask in the sunshine on rocks or logs.
Tortoises are property animals. Their feet are stumpy and round. They dig burrows with their forelimbs that are powerful and slide when the sun becomes hot.
 Terrapins reside on land and in water, usually in swamps, ponds, rivers and lakes.


The sea turtle species is the leatherback turtle. It weighs 600 to 1,500 pounds. (272 to 680 kilograms) and is approximately 4.5 to 5.25 ft (139 to 160 centimeters) long, according to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). The Galápagos tortoise grows up to 6 feet (183 cm) long and 573 pounds. (260 kg), according to the San Diego Zoo. The largest freshwater turtle in North America is the alligator. It may grow to 2.5 feet (80 cm) long and weigh up to 200 lbs. (91 kg). The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is the turtle. It steps up to 3.6 ft (1 m) across and weighs around 309 lbs. (140 kg).

Among the turtles is the Cape tortoise that is speckled, according to the San Diego Zoo. Its casing is 3.1 inches (7.9 cm) long. It weighs approximately 5 ounces (142 g).


A turtle’s shell is a modified ribcage and part of its vertebral column, according to the Animal Diversity Web (ADW) in the University of
Michigan. The area of the shell is called the carapace and the base is called the plastron, according to the San Diego Zoo. The shell consists of about 60 bones which are covered by plates. Scutes are made from keratin, the same substance which makes people fingernails.

Turtles can retract toes and their heads. Turtles are put dependent on the procedure of retraction, based on ADW. Pleurodires pull on their heads in; cryptodires draw on their heads back into the casing. Sea turtles have lost the ability.


Turtles are creatures. While they do not mind if there are turtles around them, they socialize or do not interact, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Turtles need food to be active throughout the day, spending their time foraging.

Turtles aren’t creatures that are silent. Some sound like individuals, motors and some bark like dogs. The tortoise from South America clucks like a chicken.


Most turtles are omnivores; they consume many different items that are different, depending on their species. Musk turtles eat insects, plants, small fish and mollusks. The cooter turtle is vegetarian and the green sea turtle eats algae and grasses.

The alligator baits with its tongue that resembles a worm in fish. It pops down onto it with its jaw and wiggles its tongue to pull a fish.
Additionally, it eats aquatic fish, snakes, frogs, plants, worms, clams, crayfish and other turtles.

A bizarre soft-shell turtle, Pelochelys cantorii, is only one of over 150 species of amphibians and reptiles which resides on the Philippine island of Luzon. (Picture credit: Rafe M. Brown)


All turtles lay eggs. They find a place on land to lay their eggs, dig a nest to dirt or the sand and then walk off. Their young are not nurtured by any species of turtle.

Turtles get to the age to partner at different times. Some come as young as a couple of years, but others do not reach maturity.
Some species struggle for the right to mate with a female, but she is seduced by some. Male and female turtles intertwine their tails to
ensure their shell openings line up to mate.

Sea turtles travel from the sea to lay eggs. Sea turtles lay about 110 eggs although 50 are only laid by the turtle at one time.

The turtle’s sex affects. The shore temperature produces an equal number of female and male offspring. Because of rising temperatures turtle females are being born, contributing to the decrease in species numbers, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy.