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Interesting facts about turtles

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We found 27 interesting facts about turtles

The only such armored vertebrates

The first turtles appeared on Earth at the end of the Permian, about 240 million years ago. And although the first of them had neither a plastron nor a shell, the rudiments of these elements were already developed. Over the years, turtles increasingly resembled their current forms, although the ancestors of the living species appeared only in the Early Cretaceous, about 140 million years ago. Turtles are considered living fossils because their body structure has not changed significantly over millions of years.

There are currently 356 species of turtles in the world.

They inhabit all continents and oceans, except Antarctica in the polar waters.

Most of them can be found in temperate and intertropical zones.

They live both on land and in fresh and salt water.

The turtle that occurs naturally in Poland is the European pond turtle.

These are small turtles that live in aquatic environments. In Poland they rarely reach a body length of more than 25 cm. In other ecosystems (they live from northern Africa to Central Asia) they can reach much larger sizes, even more than 40 cm in length.

Each species of turtle has its own characteristic diet: some are carnivores, some are herbivores, and others are omnivores.

Most terrestrial turtles are herbivores, while aquatic turtles are carnivores, this is determined by the speed of movement. Very often, the diet changes with growth; in many species, young individuals are more carnivorous, and as they grow older, they change their preferences for plant foods.

Turtles are very slow, rarely exceeding a speed of 0,5 km/h.

They have short, columnar legs that resemble the feet of an elephant.

Aquatic species can swim at a speed of 30 km/h.

They are helped in this by their streamlined body and paddle-shaped forelimbs. The rear ones perform more of a steering function than a driving function. Soft-skinned and sea turtles are best suited for swimming.

The most important sense in turtles is vision.

Their eyes have rods, which are adapted to low light intensity conditions, as well as cones, which allow them to see in a full spectrum of colors. There is a hypothesis, although not yet confirmed, that turtles have a fourth type of cone cell, sensitive to ultraviolet radiation.

Their hearing is limited.

They are most sensitive to sounds in the range of about 100 Hz and do not hear sounds above 500 Hz.

They use sounds to communicate.

They most often make sounds during courtship and mating, but some species also make sounds in order to stay in “contact” during migration.

The sense of smell in turtles is poorly developed.

It is not yet fully understood, but is most likely used by these reptiles for navigation.

Modern turtles have no teeth.

Instead, the inside of their mouth is lined with sharp, horny projections that are used to cut, hold, and grind food. Some extinct species had teeth, but they went extinct about 160 million years ago. The most recently discovered turtle with teeth is Sichuanchelys palatodentata.

They breathe atmospheric air using their lungs.

Marine species are forced to surface from time to time to get some fresh air. The frequency with which they do this depends on the species: some emerge every few minutes, while others can remain underwater for up to an hour.

A turtle's shell is actually modified ribs. These are the only vertebrates with such a bony shell.

The carapace consists of a convex shell located on top and a flat plastron protecting the animal from below.

The carapace is formed by modified ribs and bony processes of the vertebrae.

The outside of the shell is covered with scales, which are keratinized plates of keratin. These plates protect the case from scratches and bruises.

The plastron also consists of bone tissue, in particular the modified clavicle and abdominal ribs.

It consists of exactly nine bones, of which the two front ones are transformed clavicles.

The largest living turtle species is the leatherback turtle.

Representatives of this species reach a body length of 220 cm and a maximum weight of 700 kg. The record holder's height was approximately 270 cm. These are aquatic turtles that live in the oceans. They are also one of the deepest sea animals, living at a depth of 1280 m below sea level.

The largest turtle known to date was Archelon ischyros.

The body length of this sea giant reached 4,5 m, and its weight was about 2,2 tons. He lived at the end of the Cretaceous period, approximately 75–65 million years ago. Perhaps this turtle survived the extinction of the dinosaurs and its extinction was associated with the emergence of new species of marine animals and mammals that fed on its eggs.

The smallest living turtle is Chersobius Signatus.

This species of turtle is found in southwest Africa. Females are larger than males, their shell length does not exceed 10 cm.

Turtles are the only reptiles capable of migrating long distances.

Representatives of sea turtles can migrate thousands of kilometers, while terrestrial turtles can migrate much shorter. After hatching on the beach, young sea turtles migrate to the oceans where they remain for thousands of kilometers. During their migrations, they grow and reach sexual maturity, only to return years later to their place of birth to mate. Land birds usually do not travel more than 30 kilometers to their nesting site.

They do not form long-term relationships and rarely form social groups.

Males commonly fight each other during mating season, with aggression being more common among terrestrial species.

They have a pretty good memory.

Studies conducted on representatives of the species Pseudemys nelsoni have proven that they are capable of learning new skills, and their long-term memory lasts for at least 7,5 months. Other studies again indicate recall of instrumentally conditioned information even after 9 years.

All turtles lay their eggs on land, although copulation occurs in different environments.

Land turtles copulate on land, while sea turtles copulate in water, and only the fertilized female comes onto land to lay eggs. Eggs are laid on land because the warm soil allows the young to develop, which would not be possible in cool sea waters. Another reason for laying eggs on land is the fact that during development, turtle embryos breathe atmospheric air, which enters the eggs through a special shell in the shell.

Two turtles circled the moon. This happened in September 1968 on board the Zond 5 spacecraft.

The mission launched on September 14 at 21:42 UTC. The turtles stayed on board the ship for 6 days 18 hours 24 minutes. Although the journey was certainly traumatic for them, they returned to Earth in good condition, only slightly hungry and with a slight decrease in muscle mass (they lost about 10% of their body weight). After landing, they were given a nutritious diet and quickly returned to normal.

The science of turtles is chelonology.


They are among the longest living vertebrates.

The record holders are elephant tortoises that live more than 100 years, including a tortoise named Harriet who lived at least 175 years. The lifespan of turtles depends on their size: larger turtles tend to live longer. This does not change the fact that even small species, readily bred at home, reach an impressive lifespan of 30 - 40 years.


Since 1500, 7 species and 3 subspecies of turtles have become extinct.

The last species to become extinct is Chelonoidis abingdonii, the last of which died on June 24, 2012. He was kept in a breeding center where they tried to force him to have sex with females of other species, but George, as that was his name, was not interested. The Guinness Book of World Records describes it as the loneliest animal.

The most endangered turtle species currently is the Shanghai turtle.

Currently, only three representatives of this species live on Earth: one male and two individuals, the sex of which has not yet been confirmed.
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