Turtles are fascinating creatures and a staple in many ecosystems across the world. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, but what are the characteristics that define turtles from other animals? Turtles are some of the most beloved aquatic creatures known to humans. These shelled reptiles have been around since dinosaurs roamed the planet, and they have a wide range of characteristics that make them unique. From their physical features like their shells, to their behavior such as hibernation and mating, turtles have a lot of interesting aspects to learn about. Turtles are some of the most fascinating and majestic creatures on our planet. With their ability to live both in water and on land, they have adapted to a wide range of environments around the world. Turtles have been around for millions of years and have undergone very few changes in that time, making them a species that has seen it all. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of amazing habits and qualities of turtles as well as the incredible places they call home.
Physical Characteristics of Turtles
Adult male and female sea turtles are equal in size.
· Olive ridleys are the smallest sea turtles. They have carapace lengths of about 51 to 75 cm (20 to 30 in.) and weigh
· 33 to 50 kg (73 to 110 lbs.).
· The Kemp’s ridley has carapace lengths of 52 to 72 cm (20.5 to 28 in.) and weigh 32 to 50 kg (66 to 110 lbs.).
· Green sea turtle carapaces reach about 78 to 120 cm (31 to 47 in.) long; they weigh 68 to 230 kg (150 to 507 lbs.).
· The largest individual collected was 1.5 m (5 ft.) long and weighed 395 kg (871 lbs.).
· The black sea turtle subspecies tends to be smaller with carapace lengths of 59 to 117 cm (23 to 46 in.); they weigh 70 to 120 kg (150 to 265 lbs.).
· Loggerhead carapace lengths reach about 90 to 105 cm (35 to 41 in.) and they weigh 100 to 180 kg (220 to 397 lbs.).
· Adult hawksbills have a carapace length of 53 to 114 cm (21 to 45 in.) and weigh about 43 to 91 kg (95 to 201 lbs.).
· Flatbacks reach carapace lengths of about 81 to 100 cm (32 to 39 in.) and weigh about 60 to 90 kg (132 to 185 lbs.).
· Mature leatherbacks reach carapace lengths of about 1.2 to 1.8 m (47 to 70 in.) and weigh 200 to 900 kg (441 to 1,984 lbs.).
· The leatherback is the largest of all living sea turtles.
· The largest leatherback recorded weighed 916 kg (2,020 lbs.).
Sea turtles are characterized by a large, streamlined shell and non-retractile head and limbs.
Depending on the species, sea turtles’ color range can be olive-green, yellow, greenish-brown, reddish-brown, or black in color. Some green turtles and hawksbills have shells patterned with streaks and blotches of brown or black. Leatherbacks have black carapaces (top shells) dotted with white and white plastrons (bottom shells) with dark splotches.
As its common name implies, the black subspecies (Chelonia m.) of green sea turtle is typically darker than C. m. The green sea turtle gets its name from the color of its body fat (due to its diet of seagrasses and algae), not its shell.
Like many other aquatic animals, sea turtles are countershaded with a dark dorsal (back) and light ventral (lower surface) coloration. Countershading camouflages the turtles from potential predators. When viewed from above, the turtle’s dark back blends in with the ocean depths. From below, the lighter ventral side blends in with the brighter sea surface.
Limbs are flippers adapted for swimming. Sea turtles are awkward and vulnerable on land. Unlike land turtles, a sea turtle cannot retract its limbs under its shell. Forelimbs are long and paddle-like.
· Long digits are fused throughout the flipper.
· Only one or two claws are present on each fore flipper.
· A sea turtle swims with powerful wing-like beats of its fore flippers.
Hind flippers serve as rudders, stabilizing and directing the animal as it swims. The hind flippers of some species are quite dexterous at digging nests in the sand.
A sea turtle cannot retract its head under its shell as a land turtle can. Sea turtles have large upper eyelids that protect their eyes. Sea turtles do not have an external ear opening.
Like other turtles, sea turtles lack teeth. Jaw shape varies among species. Each species has a jaw shape adapted for its diet.
A sea turtle’s large, bony shell provides protection from predation and abrasion. The dorsal (top) side of the shell is called the carapace.
· Depending on species, the adult carapace ranges in shape from oval to heart-shaped.
· In all species except the leatherback, the bony shell is composed of broadened, fused ribs, and the backbone is attached to the carapace.
The ventral (bottom) side of the shell is called the plastron.
In all species except the leatherback, the shell is covered with a layer of horny plates called scutes. Scutes are firm but flexible, not brittle.
Scientists can identify sea turtle species by the number and pattern of scutes.
· Green sea turtles have 5 central scutes and 4 lateral scutes. The carapace is oval when viewed from above. Adults of the black subspecies have a higher domed carapace.
· Hawksbill turtles have 5 central scutes and 4 lateral scutes. The scutes overlap and are pointed at the back end. The carapace is elliptical when viewed from above.
· Loggerhead turtles have 5 central scutes and 5 lateral scutes.
· Kemp’s ridley turtles have 5 central scutes and 5 lateral scutes. When viewed from above, their carapace is almost completely round.
· Olive ridleys have 5 central scutes and 6 or more lateral scutes. When viewed from above, their carapace is almost completely round.
· Flatback turtles have 5 central scutes and 4 lateral scutes. The carapace is rounded when viewed from above and has a flattened profile. The carapace edges of most adult flatbacks are turned up.
The leatherback turtle has a thick and rubbery oil-suffused skin, which is an excellent insulator, allowing this species to venture into much colder water than other sea turtles. The leatherback’s tear-drop shaped carapace is composed largely of cartilage raised into seven prominent longitudinal ridges. A layer of thousands of small dermal bones lies just below the leathery skin. The shells of adult green and loggerhead turtles are often covered with algae, barnacles, sponges, skeleton shrimp and other ocean animals. Cleaner fish often follow the turtles closely; dining on the shells’ external occupants and helping to keep the turtle shells clean. This cleaning service benefits the turtle by reducing the amount of drag as the turtle swims.
Male and female sea turtles do not differ externally until they approach maturity. Adult males have longer, thicker tails than females, because the male reproductive organ is housed in the base of the tail. In males, the tail may extend beyond the hind flippers.
With the exception of the leatherback turtle, the claws on the fore flippers of sea turtle males are elongated and curved, which may help them grasp a female’s shell during mating.
Human Interaction with Turtles:
Humans have had a long and complex relationship with turtles, dating back centuries. This interaction has served to shape both the environment and culture of many societies around the world. From ancient artifacts and religious symbols to modern conservation efforts, turtles have been an important part of human existence.
Turtles are found on every continent except Antarctica, making them one of the most widely distributed animals in the world. For millennia they were used as sources of food, clothing, shelter materials, medicine and even currency. In many cultures they also held special spiritual significance due to their longevity and connection with water or fertility deities. Many indigenous tribes believe that turtles created the Earth from their shells or possessed knowledge from other worlds accessible only through dreams.
Today humans continue to interact with turtles in a variety of ways ranging from research projects to educational programs about their importance in nature.
What do turtles eat?
Turtles are an interesting and unique species of reptiles that have been around since prehistoric times. They make an interesting pet, but before you consider purchasing one, it is important to know what they eat. Though their diet may vary slightly depending on the species of turtle, here is a look at some of the most common foods turtles eat.
In the wild, most turtles tend to be omnivores and will consume a variety of plant-based materials as well as small insects or worms. They also feed on aquatic plants and algae from ponds or lakes. Some species may also hunt for fish or other smaller animals in their natural environment. In captivity, owners can feed them a mix of store-bought reptile food pellets combined with fresh vegetables such as lettuce or carrots, giving them both nutrition and variety in their diet. Turtles eat a wide range of foods. Many turtles are omnivorous. Some turtles eat jellyfish and salps. Tortoises, which are a type of turtle, are predominantlyherbivores , but some will consume invertebrates and carrion. Other turtles consume waterside vegetation. Some turtles even crush shells of mollusks in order to obtain the meat.
How do turtle eggs hatch?
Turtles are well-known for laying eggs, but did you know that the hatching process is quite complex? Turtles’ eggs are typically buried in warm sand or soil and left to hatch on their own. Each species of turtle has its own distinct hatching process and timeline, with some turtles taking several months to emerge from their shells.
For example, the western pond turtle takes around 90 days to fully develop and hatch from its egg. During this time, the embryo develops inside the egg until it is ready to break out of its shell. The temperature of the nest is critical for successful hatching as cooler temperatures can slow down development while warmer temperatures can cause a premature hatchling emergence. Once hatched, these little turtles will begin feeding on small worms and insects found near their nesting site before they eventually make their way into nearby water sources .The hatching of a turtle consists of two separate events: exiting the egg and emerging from the nest. Hatchlings use a pointed keratinous bump, called a caruncle , on the tip of their snout to break the inner surface of the eggshell. They then tear a larger opening and climb out. To emerge from the nest, hatchlings dig upward, most often together, through the material covering the nest.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Turtles are not social creatures. While they typically don't mind if there are other turtles around them, they don't interact or socialize, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Most turtles are active during the day, spending their time foraging for food. Turtles are not silent creatures.
Sea turtles live in almost every ocean basin throughout the world, nesting on tropical and subtropical beaches. They migrate long distances to feed, often crossing entire oceans. Some loggerheads nest in Japan and migrate to Baja California Sur, Mexico to forage before returning home again.
They have sturdy, sprawling limbs with short feet or paddlelike flippers (marine turtles). Some species bend the neck sideways, but most pull the head and neck backward into the shell. Almost half of the known turtle species are rare, threatened, or endangered.
How do sea turtles sleep? Some sea turtles rest at the surface, while others wedge themselves under rocks, or even in sponges. Since they cannot breathe while underwater, they only sleep for relatively short periods at a time, not all night.
In conclusion ,turtles are an amazing species of animals that have unique characteristics. They are able to both breathe and swallow underwater, they can live on land or in the water, they have a hard shell that protects them from predators, and their lifespan can span decades. Turtles are truly remarkable creatures who have been around for millions of years and have adapted to their environment in order to survive. Whether you find them on land or in the water, turtles are always an interesting species to observe.