Turtles are slow, wise looking, wrinkly reptiles, and they are globally recognized on 23rd May as the World Turtle Day. They lived along with the T-REXs nearly 260 million years back and still living through numerous evolutionary changes. Over 256 species of Turtles has been identified by scientists still now but, they carry the air of mystery even now.
1. Turtles can not be classified as tortoises always but, all tortoises are turtles. Technically tortoises belong to the Testudines family, meaning reptiles with bodies covered by bony outer shell. The main difference is tortoises live exclusively on land whereas, turtles live in or near water.
2. They can not come out of their shell ever. As the shell grows with their age, it is impossible for them to outgrow the existing shell. But, tortoises can retract their head and limbs inside the shell, whereas turtles can not.
The shell is actually a part of it’s skeleton, and made up of nearly 50 bones. The shell makes up a part of the turtle’s rib cage, spine and actually grows with it’s age just like a human skeleton.
4. The lifespan depends on the species but, mostly they live long. Typically they live between 10-80 years, while larger species can tip over 100 years.
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5. There are several factors for their long lifespan. Firstly, they are cold blooded. Hence, they have very slow metabolism and can survive without food or water for long time. Another reason is they are almost evolved to survive in all kind of harsh conditions.
Whether they live in land or water, all of them lay eggs on land. Water dwellers dig hole in sand near water source. Once hatched, the babies are own their own.
7. Baby turtles or hatchlings have an “egg tooth” on their beak to hatch out of their shell. This tooth disappears approximately an hour after hatching.
Like crocodiles and alligators, a turtle’s gender is also determined after fertilization. If the egg incubate below 27.7 degrees Celsius, the hatchlings will be male. While, the egg incubate above 31 degrees, they will be female. If, temperature is somewhere in-between, or fluctuates, a mix of male and female babies will hatch. As oceans getting warm, turtles tend to give birth to more females.
The Bog turtle can be as little as 4-inches long, whereas the Leather back turtle can grow up-to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 2000 pounds.
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10. As reptiles sea turtles also breathe air, but they have the ability to remain submerged for hours (up-to 5 hours) by slowing the heart beat once per 9 minutes. They even sleep underwater. Most sea turtles spend their entire life at sea, and only return to lay eggs. However in the Pacific Islands, green turtles often come ashore to bask on the beach.
Most of them are actually omnivores. They eat aquatic plants and sea creatures. But, a few species are picky. Most are happy to munch on leafy greens or fruit, while the fearsome-looking alligator turtle is entirely carnivorous and feeds on anything from fish to small mammals.
They are very fond of jellyfish. Hence, their appetite for jellyfish can sometimes prove harmful for them, as they ingest harmful species or plastic thinking of a floating jellyfish.
13. Sea turtles are known for their amazing ability to return at the exact beach they were born years back. Like many animals, they can navigate at sea by sensing the magnetic field and also remember the magnetic signature of coastlines.
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14. They have excellent eye sight to see under water. Scientists discovered, they prefer some colors over others to identify objects.
Green sea turtles have more plant-based diet and eat sea-grass. They are known as ocean lawn mowers by keeping sea-grass short, prevent it from getting tall and harming other marine creatures.
Leatherback turtles are highly migratory and swim more than 10,000 miles a year between nesting and foraging grounds. They have also accomplished the deepest recorded dive reaching nearly 4000 feet, deeper than most marine mammals.
17. Today there are around 129 turtle species are considered endangered because of constant human interruptions in their natural habitat. Another serious factor is illegal pet trade, as these turtles are very famous.