The 23rd of May is World Turtle Day – a whole 24 hours dedicated to highlighting the plight of turtle species around the world. Here at ARKive we thought we would celebrate by sharing our top turtle facts.
Did you know…
- Turtles are found on every continent, except for Antarctica
- The age of most juvenile turtles can be determined by the upper shell, which grows each year from a central point
- Turtles are thought to have lived on earth for over 200 million years
- The sex of most turtle hatchlings is dependent on the temperature which they are incubated at, with males hatching at low temperatures and females hatching when the temperature is higher
- The loggerhead turtle has powerful jaws that can make easy work of its hard-shelled prey.
- It is highly migratory and is known to cross oceans.
Not a jack in a box
- Box turtles gain their common name from their hinged shell which enables them to completely close their shell to protect themselves.
- The male ornate box turtle has enlarged claws on its hindfeet to grip onto the female while mating.
- The leatherback turtle is the world’s largest turtle, with the average carapace (the shell covering the back) reaching around 160 centimetres and the largest recorded individual weighing up to 916 kilograms.
- Uniquely, the leatherback turtle is able to maintain an elevated body temperature, giving it the ability to dive to depths of up to 1,000 metres in pursuit of prey.
Snappy by name, snappy by nature
- The alligator snapping turtle is nicknamed the ‘dinosaur of the turtle world’ due to its prehistoric, alligator-like appearance, from which it gains its common name.
- The tongue of the alligator snapping turtle has a small, worm-like projection, which is wiggled to attract prey.
What is being done to help?
Thankfully, various conservation organisations and individuals are working tirelessly to help save turtles and tortoises from the brink of extinction. Here are some actions being taken to ensure the future survival of these fascinating creatures:
- Shrimp fisheries are now using Turtle Excluder Devices, which only allow shrimp-sized objects to enter the nets, preventing turtles from being caught as bycatch
- Many species are now listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade is strictly monitored and controlled – this should hopefully prevent some collection of wild turtles for the international pet trade
- Some nesting sites are protected during the nesting season to ensure that eggs cannot be collected and subsequently sold
- Captive breeding programmes and the protection of areas which are known to support turtle populations could ensure the long-term survival of these magnificent reptiles
Are you turtley in awe of sea turtles? Want to learn more about them? Then why not check out our eggshellent ARKive Education resource – Turtle Life Cycle – and play the turtle-tastic board game!
Find out more about turtles, tortoises and their conservation:
- IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group
- IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group
- Turtle Survival Alliance
- Turtle Conservation Fund
- Chelonian Research Foundation
- American Tortoise Rescue