Interesting Facts About Turtles and Tortoises

An endangered Hawksbill sea turtle in Hawaii.
An endangered Hawksbill sea turtle in Hawaii.

Turtles and tortoises are reptiles that are closely related since they both belong to the Testudines family. Tortoises can live for more than 200 years, and the incredibly hard shell of a turtle acts as a shield that protects it against predators. Ten additional facts about turtles and tortoises are listed below.

Do Turtles Have Teeth?

Turtles lack teeth but are equipped with beaks that adapt to their feeding habits. For example, meat-eating turtles have sharp and ridged beaks, while herbivorous turtles have beaks with serrated edges that can cut plants and vegetation.

Differences Between Turtles and Tortoises

There are several differences between turtles and tortoises. For example, turtles are both aquatic and semi-aquatic, while most tortoises live on land, although some tortoises can swim. Most turtles have flattened shells, whereas most tortoises have deeply domed shells. Additionally, female turtles are generally larger than males, while male tortoises are usually larger than females.

Are Turtles and Tortoises Invertebretes or Vertebretes?

A vertebrate is an animal that has a backbone, and both turtles and tortoises are vertebrates. Another feature of a vertebrate exhibited by turtles and tortoises is the presence of a spinal cord and pharyngeal slits. In addition, cephalization occurs in these animals, resulting in the clear distinction between the head and brain.

Are Turtles Anthropods?

Arthropods are invertebrate animals that have an exoskeleton, segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. Since turtles are vertebrates, they cannot be arthropods. Examples of arthropods include crustaceans and insects which have more than four jointed legs.

Is a Tortoise a Reptile?

Reptiles are vertebrates with a body encased in a bony shell, scales, or both. Members of this class known as Reptilia include crocodiles, amphibians, lizards, turtles, snakes, and tortoises. A tortoise is a reptile due to its hard and thick shell.

Can Turtles Remember Things?

The brain of a turtle does not grow to the same size of birds and mammals. Turtles also lack the cerebral part of the brain which is responsible for learning and rea­soning, and as a result have relatively low intelligence compared to other animals. However, the most intelligent turtle, Glyptemis insculpta, which lives in North America, does demonstrate that turtles can learn certain things. In terms of memory, scientists were unsure about the memory-span of turtles until researchers from the University of Lincoln conducted a study that concluded turtles have long-term memories. The study focused on red-footed tortoises.

Why Do Turtles Move so Slowly?

Turtles move slowly due to their slow metabolism rates, and because they are herbivores that do not hunt for food. Carnivores, such as lions and tigers, are usually adapted to run fast in order to catch prey, while turtles primarily feed on stationary plants. Additionally, the biological composition of turtles makes it dangerous to move at faster speeds.

Where Do Turtles Live in the Wild?

Turtles typically live in grasslands and woodlands, and are suited to wander in the wild for many years of their lives.

How Strong Is a Snapping Turtle's Bite?

In 2002, a study in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology revealed that a snapping turtle's jaw has the strength of between 208 and 226 Newtons. This is less that the bite of an average human, which ranges between 300 and 700 Newtons. Therefore, despite popular belief, the jaws of a turtle are weaker than that of humans.

What Noise Does a Turtle Make?

Turtles make noises such as hissing, hooting, grunting, and clucking. However, the most common turtle noise is hissing. Turtles tend to make voluntary or involuntary noises during courtship, mating, battle, and egg-laying.


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