May 23

Today ARKive is rejoicing in all things shelled and slow-moving by celebrating World Turtle Day!

Hawksbill turtle photo

May 23rd is World Turtle Day!

Turtles and tortoises (members of the order Testudines) have been around for more than 200 million years! But with approximately 50% of all species considered threatened, never has there been a more apt time to celebrate these ancient beauties.

How you celebrate World Turtle Day is entirely up to you. Whether it’s donating money to a turtle charity, or donning your own homemade shell and swimming to work – so long as you’re highlighting the wondrousness of turtles then anything goes. To provide some inspiration for your celebrations, here are ARKive’s top turtle facts just to prove how fantastic they really are!

From the biggest…

The leatherback turtle is the world’s biggest turtle, with the largest recorded individual weighing a massive 916 kgs!

Leatherback turtle photo

Leatherbacks are the giants of the turtle world

…to the smallest…

Weighing in at just 95-165g, the speckled cape tortoise is the world’s smallest tortoise.

Speckled cape tortoise photo

The very tiny speckled cape tortoise

…to the oldest…

The oldest tortoise ever recorded was a radiated tortoise called Tu’i Malila who died in 1965 at the ripe old age of 188! So what’s the key to the turtle’s long lifespan? Genetic researchers are trying to find out by examining the turtle genome for longevity genes. Clever old turtles!!

Radiated tortoise photo

An old and very wise radiated tortoise

…to the fittest…

Green turtles return to the same beach to breed each season. One population in Brazil migrates around 2,250 kilometres across the open ocean to breed on Ascension Island, which is slap bang in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. A swimming performance worthy of the Olympics I think!

Green turtle photo

A green turtle showing off his swimming skills

…to the egg-cellent…

Olive ridley turtles are known for their remarkable mass nestings, when many thousands of females congregate on the same beach. The event is known as an ‘arribada’ which is Spanish for ‘mass arrival’ and can involve around 150,000 females, each of which lays around 120 eggs!

Olive ridley turtle photo

Arrival of olive ridley turtles at Ostional beach, Costa Rica, for mass nesting event

…to the weird and wonderful…

In some species of turtle, the incubation temperature of the eggs determines whether they develop into males or females. Unfortunately, this means that turtle populations are extremely vulnerable to any increase in global temperature as a result of climate change.

Photo of green turtle hatchlings heading towards the sea

Green turtle hatchlings heading towards the sea

Let the celebrations begin!

Now you are fully aware of how fantastic turtles are, you can go ahead and start celebrating World Turtle Day! To get involved, you can visit the World Turtle Day Facebook page, donate money to American Tortoise Rescue which sponsor the day, and of course there’s always ARKive’s collection of turtle photos and videos for you to marvel at.

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher

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