red eared sliders handshaking

Uncovering the Mystery of Red Eared Slider Hand Shaking

Have you ever wondered why red-eared sliders shake their hands? These turtles are known for their bright, vibrant colors and their ability to swim quickly. They also have a unique behavior when it comes to using their hands. Red-eared sliders will often shake their hands as a form of communication and to express various emotions. It is important to understand why your turtle does this in order to provide the best possible care. Red-eared Sliders are a species of turtle that many people find adorable and keep as pets. They may seem like they’re the picture of contentment, but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to their behavior. One peculiar action that Red-eared Sliders exhibit is shaking their hands in the air. But why? In this article, we’ll explore what it means when your red eared slider turtle is shaking its hands and why it does so.

Reasons for Shaking Hands of Red Eared Slider Turtles

Red eared sliders (also known as a red eared turtle), is one of the most popular turtles on earth. Belonging to the family , these sliders show up some interesting behaviors. One of them is shaking or crawling their hands or claws. Things happen for various reason and we are going to discuss why this happens.

So, why do red eared sliders shake their hands? There can be many reasons. But the most common one is to establish their dominance among other male turtles. Also, this behavior attracts female ones for mating.

So, Why Red Eared Sliders Shake Their Hands?

Shaking hands is one of the most interesting traits these sliders could show. In general, it may sound simple until we know the reason behind it. Those reasons can be listed as below:

(It’s worth mentioning that this behavior only shows in male sliders)

  • Establishing Dominance Among Others
  • Attracting Female Ones For Fertilization
  • Meaning Of Shaking In Young Sliders
  • Meaning Of Touching With Hands Instead Of Shaking

Establishing Dominance Among Others:

Sometimes, male sliders flutter their front claws in front of others to show up their higher social status. Often it indicates physical battel where it could result in biting between two sliders with the help of their beaks, as they don’t have any teeth.

Attract Female Ones For Fertilization:

Well, this a bit interesting! Shaking hands use for fertilization. When the male ones try to woo the female ones, they shake their hands around them. When the female ones see this and accept his proposal, they are on the verge of mating and fertilization. However, it doesn’t occur in seconds. It could take up to 10 to 45 minutes to complete the process of mating.

Meaning Of Shaking In Young Sliders:

Red ear sliders mainly show this behavior i.e. shaking as a wooing technique. So, this is unfamiliar to the younger ones and their shaking of claws doesn’t mean anything.

Meaning Of Touching With Hands Instead Of Shaking:

Not every slider use shaking as their main wooing technique. Some of them slightly touch it across the female’s face to attract them and go for mating. But this kind of behavior is mainly seen in sliders having larger claws.

Why do turtles shake their hands?

Male turtles do such kind of things to woo female ones and complete mating. It’s the main reason behind it. However, they also do this to express domination over the other ones.

Why do turtles tap each other in the face?

Female turtles often like to be touched by their loved ones to start the mating process. As mentioned earlier, male ones do this when they have longer hands or claws.

Causes of Red Eared Sliders hand shaking

Cause 1: Temperature Regulation

Temperature regulation is a key factor for the health and well-being of red eared slider turtles. A lack of proper temperature regulation can cause a range of health issues, such as hand shaking. Hand shaking in red eared sliders is caused by improper thermoregulation, resulting in the turtle’s body temperatures dropping too low. The most common symptom of this condition is a shivering or trembling motion, indicative that the red eared slider’s body temperature needs to be stabilized. The ideal water temperature for red eared sliders should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, which must be maintained throughout their habitat. Without consistent warmth, the turtle’s core body temperature will drop rapidly leading to hypothermia and hand shaking. Red eared sliders are also reliant on external heat sources such as UV lamps and basking spots to maintain their optimal body temperature. Temperature regulation is an important factor in the health of many animals, and turtles are no exception. Turtles have a unique way of regulating their body temperature—hand shaking. When a turtle’s body temperature becomes too high or too low, its hands will begin to shake involuntarily in order to help regulate its overall temperature. This hand-shaking behavior has long been observed in turtles and can be indicative of a number of different health issues that may be affecting the animal. Understanding why turtles experience hand-shaking when their temperatures become too warm or cool is essential for maintaining their overall wellness. The behavior occurs because the turtle’s muscles are trying to generate heat which helps them maintain their core body temperature when it becomes too cold or hot outside.

Cause 2: Communication

Red-eared slider handshaking has recently become a prominent phenomenon in the pet turtle world. This peculiar behavior, where two turtles appear to be shaking hands with each other, has baffled owners and experts alike. It’s now believed that this behavior is actually a form of communication between two sliders who are curious about each other. 

The exact reasons why red-eared sliders communicate through handshaking remain unclear, but experts suggest it may be related to establishing dominance or simply expressing friendly curiosity. Research suggests that adult males tend to engage in this behavior more than females or juveniles, signaling the importance of hierarchy within their communities.  These fascinating creatures have been around since prehistoric times and yet we still don’t know all the mysteries behind their communication habits.

Cause 3: Activity and Appetite

Red-eared slider handshaking is a situation that occurs when the turtle shakes its front legs continuously, usually when it has just eaten. The behavior often looks like it is trying to rid itself of food or water, but in reality is actually a response to activity and appetite.  When a red eared slider increases its activity level the metabolism rate also increases which causes an increase in appetite. This sudden rise in hunger can cause the turtle to start shaking their front legs as if they are “trying” to move faster and satisfy their hunger needs quicker. Handshaking can also occur after eating due to an overstimulation of hormones released during digestion causing them to become overactive with energy and movement as they try digesting what they have consumed.

Cause 4: Fear and Anxiety

Fear and anxiety can have a profound effect on our health and well-being, including the ability of red-eared sliders to perform certain physical tasks. One such task is handshaking; an activity commonly used by turtles as a form of communication and socialization. Recent studies have shown that fear and anxiety in these aquatic creatures can cause them to rapidly shake their hands, an action known as “handshaking”. The amount of fear or anxiety experienced by a red eared slider has been found to directly affect the intensity of this behavior. For example, when exposed to potential predators, a turtle may increase its rate of handshaking in order to protect itself from danger. This reaction is often referred to as “flight or fight” response due to its instinctive nature.

What Fluttering Claws Mean in Red-Eared Sliders:

Red eared sliders are very common turtles both in nature and in captivity. They live primarily in the water, but because they are cold-blooded, they do emerge to modulate their temperature. They live in diverse habitats—from mud holes to ponds, streams, lakes, and large rivers. Red-eared sliders are native to the southern United States, though they are prevalent around the world because they are so popular as pets.

This turtle is thought to have the highest volume of reproduction worldwide and they are often sold to people as hatchlings. They are probably dumped into the wild both in and out of their native habitat more any other turtle species on the planet.

Mating Signs:

The fluttering claw movements that red-eared sliders sometimes exhibit is most often a courtship ritual or “mating dance.” It is most often males that exhibit this behavior, but not exclusively, so you can’t necessarily use this behavior to distinguish between males and females. When some male turtles try to woo females to mate, they approach them underwater and then the turtle will face the other and flutter or vibrate its front claws around the female turtle’s head.2 When the female turtle catches sight of this and is amenable to the invitation, they drop to the aquatic floor. At this point, the pair are ready to mate and fertilize. If a female is put off by all the fluttering, however, she may respond aggressively. Mating takes about 10 to 15 minutes, but turtles can spend another 45 minutes beforehand just fluttering and wooing. Sometimes young red-eared sliders will shake their claws around in an attempt at wooing behavior, even though they’re not ready to mate. Before maturity, the turtle can’t breed successfully, but he can practice claw fluttering so he’s ready when the time comes.

Instead of fluttering, some turtles take a more gentle approach, using their claws to softly stroke the female’s face rather than shaking. The male’s claws, which are especially long (and noticeably longer than those of the females), are particularly suited to this special caress.

Establishing Dominance:

Performing this courtship ritual does not necessarily mean mating will occur, though, and sometimes it is thought to be more of a display of dominance or territorial behavior. Male turtles sometimes flutter their front claws in front of other males to express their higher social status. This is often an indicator that a physical battle is forthcoming during which the turtles might bite each other with their beaks, as they don’t have teeth.

Frequently Asked Questions:

The fluttering claw movements that red-eared sliders sometimes exhibit is most often a courtship ritual or "mating dance." It is most often males that exhibit this behavior, but not exclusively, so you can't necessarily use this behavior to distinguish between males and females.

If you ever notice a pet turtle appearing to shake or flutter his "arms," or front claws, in the presence of an individual of the opposite sex, you're not simply seeing things. The behavior is a pretty common one in the turtle world, and generally signifies the urge to mate, although not always.

Why Does My Turtle Try To Bite Me? Although some species of turtles are less aggressive than others, just about every turtle will snap at you if it feels threatened. If your turtle is trying or has bitten you, it was probably because it felt scared.

Turtles might have Salmonella germs on their bodies even when they appear healthy and clean. When people touch turtles, the germs can get on hands or clothing. This is true for any turtle—no matter if they are in a home, at a petting zoo or school, or in the wild.


In conclusion ,red eared sliders shaking their hands is an unusual behavior that can be caused by various factors. It can be a sign that the slider is feeling threatened, or it may also indicate boredom or hunger. As owners, it’s important to adjust the tank environment and provide a balanced diet so that your pet red eared slider feels comfortable and healthy. Keeping an eye on these behaviors, as well as being aware of other signs of distress can help you ensure your turtle’s well-being.

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