Turtles: What You Should Know

Turtles are reptiles. A distinction is made between tortoises and turtles, some of which live in fresh water and others in salt water. A tortoise can live up to 100 years, and a giant tortoise is even older.

Tortoises feed mainly on meadow herbs. In captivity, they can also be fed lettuce and occasionally fruit or vegetables. Sea turtles prefer squid, crabs, or jellyfish as food. The species living in freshwater eat plants, small fish, or larvae of insects.

Turtles are cold-blooded animals and therefore very active when it is warm. In winter they hibernate for three to four months at a temperature of four degrees Celsius. During this time they rest and do not eat anything.

Turtles lay their eggs in summer. The female digs a hole with her hind feet in which to lay her eggs. The eggs are buried and hatched in the ground by the warmth of the sun. The mother doesn’t care anymore. For some species, it is only the incubation temperature that determines whether male or female turtles hatch from them. As precocial, they are then immediately on their own. They also later life alone.

How does the tank grow?

In evolution, the armor developed from the ribs. A shield of horn grows above it. In some turtles, the outer horn plates gradually fall off to renew, while new plates grow underneath. In other tortoises, annual rings appear, similar to those in a tree trunk. In both ways, the shell grows with the young animal.

Because of the shell, a turtle cannot breathe like other animals. It cannot expand the chest when you breathe in and let it collapse again when you breathe out. The turtle inhales by stretching all four legs outward. This causes the lungs to expand and suck in the air. To exhale, she pulls her legs back in a little.

What are the records for turtles?

Turtles are among the animals that can live to the greatest possible age. However, the Greek tortoise only makes it to an average of ten years in nature. Sea turtles often live to be 75 years or more. The tortoise male Adwaita is said to have become the oldest. It died in a zoo in India at the age of 256. However, his age is not entirely certain.

The different species also reach very different body sizes. In many, the shell is only about ten to fifty centimeters long. The giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands make it over a meter. Sea turtles get much longer. The longest species reaches a shell length of two meters and fifty centimeters and weighs 900 kilograms. One such leatherback sea turtle washed up on a beach in Wales with a shell length of 256 centimeters. She weighed 916 kilograms. It was thus longer than a bed and heavier than a small car.

Sea turtles are very good at diving. They make it to a depth of 1500 meters. Usually, they have to come up to breathe. But many species have a bladder in the cloaca, i.e. in the bottom opening. This allows them to get oxygen out of the water. It is even more sophisticated with the musk turtles. They have special cavities in their throats that they use to get oxygen out of the water. This allows them to remain underwater for over three months during the hibernation period.

Are Turtles Endangered?

Adult turtles are well protected by their shell. Nevertheless, alligators and many other armored lizards are dangerous to them. They can easily crack the tank with their strong jaws.

Eggs and juveniles are much more at risk. Foxes plunder the nests. Birds and crabs grab the newly hatched turtles on their way to the sea. But many people also like to eat eggs or live animals. Many turtles used to be eaten, especially during Lent. Seafarers stocked up on islands and beaches with giant tortoises. Even today, many young animals are caught in the wild and made into pets.

Many tortoises die from the toxins used in agriculture. Their natural habitats are converted into arable land and are therefore lost to them. Roads cut through their habitats and impede their reproduction.

Many sea turtles die from ingesting plastic. Plastic bags look like jellyfish to turtles, which they love to eat. They choke or die from it because the plastic builds up in their stomachs. The bad thing is that a dead turtle decomposes in the water, releasing the plastic and potentially killing more turtles.

Help came in 1975 through the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This treaty between many states restricts or even bans trade in endangered species. This brought some relief. In many countries, scientists and volunteers are committed to making improvements. For example, they protect the nests with bars against foxes or even cover them around the clock against animal and human plunderers. In Germany, for example, they have reintroduced the native pond turtle.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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