If you were asked to compare your personality traits to a living creature, what creature would you pick? Could you be compared to a lion because people hear your roar? Or perhaps a possum who plays dead when facing a difficult situation? The list is endless for comparing our personality traits to animals or reptiles. The creature that is of extreme interest to me to make a correlation to however, is none other than the turtle. While a turtle may be cold, slimy and lives in a tank, pond or ocean, it does have other traits that can be so very human-like. The turtle envelops itself in a hard natural shell, much like we envelop ourselves in shells of fear, denial and guilt. The shells we wrap ourselves in are not always visible to others yet they are very much part of our being. Humans and turtles both possess many unique personality traits, making it easy to identify similarities between the two. Research has shown that humans often have certain qualities in common with several species of turtles, which can range from physical characteristics to behavior patterns. By comparing the personality traits of both humans and turtles, we can gain a better understanding of how our own behaviors are shaped by our environment and genetics.
Understanding Turtle Personality Traits
Researchers have been monitoring the population of Blanding’s turtles in Michigan for several years and making efforts to ensure their numbers don’t drop any further. Female Blanding’s turtles typically lay eggs this time of year, and they often travel rather long distances to find suitable nesting grounds. This certainly puts them at risk, especially as road mortality is one of the major threats they face. When baby turtles hatch, they must find their way back to water, which leaves them vulnerable to predation. The DZS became involved in a head-starting program for this species in 2011. This means that eggs are incubated at the Detroit Zoo and the hatchlings are allowed to grow up safely until they reach a certain size, at which point they are released back into the wild.
We used a series of behavioral tests to uncover specific personality traits, including what is often referred to as the mirror test. A mirror is placed in the testing space and the turtle can choose to approach it and to interact with it. As amazing as turtles are, they cannot recognize themselves in a mirror and hence perceive their reflection to be another turtle. By examining their reaction, we definitely saw each turtle as an individual. Some were reluctant to approach, some were uninterested, some were trying to interact gently, and some were very adamant that there was only room for one turtle in the pond!
Once we identified the personality traits, we wanted to understand what links there may be between personality and the turtles’ behavior and survival once released into their natural habitat. Field researchers from the University of Michigan-Flint tracked the turtles post-release for two years and shared their data with us. Based on our analyses, turtles that demonstrated high exploration had better survival rates than those who scored low in exploration. During the first year, turtles that were more aggressive traveled further from their release site, but over the entire course of the tracking period, turtles that were more exploratory traveled the most. Turtles that were rated as more aggressive and exploratory were found basking more often. Turtles will rest in the sun to help thermoregulate. This helps them to be more energetically efficient, but being exposed may put them at higher risk of predation. The different personalities therefore behave in different ways that amount to a trade-off in risks and benefits.
Finally, all turtles, regardless of personality, showed a distinct preference for areas vegetated with cattails. Given this demonstrated preference, we now know that this type of habitat might really benefit turtles in future releases.
Human Characteristics of Turtles:
Turtles may be one of the oldest creatures on the planet, but these reptiles display some surprisingly human characteristics. From their ability to form social bonds to their unique communication methods, turtles have a lot more in common with humans than you might think.
Turtles are capable of forming strong social bonds and exhibit complex behaviors when interacting with members of their own species. For example, female turtles have been known to vocalize specific tones and gestures when courting potential mates. They also possess an impressive capacity for learning; studies have shown that they can recognize individual faces and remember them even after long periods of time apart. In addition, they use an array of body language cues to communicate with each other such as head bobbing and shell tapping. Like humans, turtles can also demonstrate empathy for others in distress.
Similarities between Humans & Turtles:
Turtles are unique species that have been with us for millions of years. Due to their appearance, behavior, and overall calm demeanor, they’ve earned their status as one of the most symbolic animals on Earth.
Nowadays and throughout human history, turtles have been described as symbols of longevity and the ability to survive. And because of their wrinkly appearance, we connect them to virtues that are normally connected with the elderly, such as patience, wisdom, and groundedness.
As a spirit animal, the turtle teaches us to take things slowly and not rush them. We should prefer slower and steady growth instead of rapid rises that come with ups and downs. Interestingly, the early Christians viewed the turtle as the symbol of opposing, evil forces (although the symbolism of turtles in Christianity is very different today!)
Here’s what the turtle symbolizes to us today.
Turtles move around slowly, and we could say that their motto is: “You come far by going slowly.” That motto is true in so many different areas of our lives, too. Patience is an important but scarce virtue nowadays. We tend to rush things and expect results overnight without necessarily waiting patiently instead.
Turtles are the exact opposite of this. Because they walk so slowly, they can cover much less ground as quicker animals – and have developed special defensive mechanisms for this fact. Ultimately, this strategy has paid off well for turtles throughout their evolution, as it will be for anyone who’s willing to wait patiently instead of rushing things.
The tortoise is one of the oldest symbols on planet Earth – we could say it’s an ancient symbol of wisdom in many ways. Cultures from centuries past have used the turtle as their symbol.
Turtles are also smart animals. They have the ability to take things slowly and live an easygoing life, which is also partly why we connect them to wisdom so often. We view turtles as wise animals as they are able to meander their way through life while surviving many natural threats, despite their slow movement and inability to flee quickly.
Turtles are one of the oldest creatures on planet Earth. The earliest known turtles date all the way back to260 million years ago. This puts them among the list of the oldest animal species in history. Although the turtles back then were quite different from what the turtles represent today. They had teeth and no shells, and they looked slightly different.
But there’s an element of mystery to turtles, as well. Because of this anciency, many cultures throughout history have used turtles as their symbols. For example, some Native American tribes named the continent we today know as North America “The Turtle Island”, because the turtle, for them, represents the Earth itself and its history.
In addition to being one of the oldest creatures to walk the Earth, turtles are also known as animals that have one of the longest life spans out of all creatures. The average lifespan of most larger turtle species is around 80 years, while for smaller turtles, the average life expectancy is between 30-40 years.
There are several reasons for their longevity. It’s their vegetarian diet, their easygoing lifestyle, their slow growth rates, and their ability to reproduce at a fast rate. But they also have the ability to protect themselves with their shells.
The oldest known tortoise today, Jonathan , is 187 years old! Jonathan is a giant tortoise and is located in Seychelles. That means Jonathan was born during the Industrial Revolution and survived both world wars. Boy, does he have some stories to tell!
Turtles are also very fertile animals. Their breeding behavior is also quite unique. They will travel millions of miles just to hatch their eggs somewhere safely on a beach. In one single breeding patch, they can spawn anywhere from a couple of eggs to more than a hundred eggs at once.
And because they live so long, they can do so many times during their lifetime. While the spawning rates and the ages can differ from species to species, there is definitely a clear reason to see why turtles are considered symbols of fertility.
6. Determination and Persistence
Because turtles move slowly when they walk, they are also a symbol of groundedness. Even though they are surprisingly quick when they swim, they are quite slow when they move outside of water. However, their patience and the ability to stay firm have served them well in their development.
They can be symbols for us to stay strong when things get tough. Turtles show us that it’s important to stay focused and grounded even when things are not going our way. And that we should stay grounded even when things are going well.
Because of their slow movement, turtles are often targeted by larger predators. However, they are not easy prey by any means. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. They stay determined to defend themselves, and they have the mechanism of the shell to protect them when they are hunted.
7. Easygoing Lifestyle
Turtles are certainly easygoing creatures. As such, they represent an easygoing lifestyle, without stressing too much about what others think, just like turtles fend off “predators” with ease.
They are also free to live almost anywhere they, please. When they breed, they move hundreds of miles from where their nest is just to be able to lay their eggs. And when they are in the water, they can move freely and quickly. This freedom allows them to go about their lives in an easygoing manner. (See also: our article on water symbolism).
Tortoises are peaceful animals. They are the symbol of peace because they are relatively harmless animals that don’t really have any predatory behaviors. They have a vegetarian diet, so they don’t tangle themselves into fights or they don’t hunt down other animals. Instead, they live their own life and walk their own path.
Turtles as Spirit Animals
Because of all of those qualities and symbolism we’ve mentioned above, turtles are often present as spirit animals.
If you have the turtle as your spirit animal, it means you’re an easygoing person, even though you’re determined when things get tough. You have quite a strong shell when other people target you or when things are not going your way, and you’re able to overcome hard times because of this determination.
The turtle leads you to live your life in an easygoing manner, although it also teaches you to take things slowly rather than rush them.
And just like tortoises, you should learn how to walk your own path peacefully instead of limiting others along the way. Because you have determination, you should be able to overcome anything that gets in your way without involving others or without causing any harm to other people.
The turtle has been present as a totem for many centuries. Most notably, it was an important spirit animal for Native Americans, where it represented their connection to Earth. But it also had similar meanings as today, such as determination and also longevity.
Perception of Turtles:
Turtles are often seen as slow and gentle creatures that live in the water. But there is much more to turtles than meets the eye. Perception of these animals has changed over time, as scientists have discovered new facts about them.
In ancient mythology, turtles were believed to possess supernatural powers, such as being able to bring good luck or ward off evil spirits. In some cultures, they were even worshipped as gods and goddesses. As our understanding of science and nature evolved, so did perceptions of turtles. For example, we now know that many species can be quite long-lived—some can reach up to 150 years in age!
Today’s perception of turtles is growing increasingly positive due to increased public awareness of their plight in the wild.
Frequently Asked Questions:
There are some personality characteristics that are common to all turtles and tortoises. They are quiet, shy, and harmless yet display intelligence. They can identify their keepers and know when it's feeding time. Turtles and tortoises are very sensitive to loud noises, vibrations, and sudden bright lights.
The only option in a turtle's mindset is to survive, thrive, and keep pushing forward.
Yes, both tortoises and turtles can learn to recognize their caretakers. This does take time, but turtles and tortoises are very smart. They will learn your scent, sounds, and behaviors. They will come to associate you with food and safety.
In conclusion, while some turtle personality traits in humans may not be overtly visible, many of us can identify with these lessons. We all have a little bit of the turtle within us and are capable of incorporating their wisdom into our lives. Learning to navigate life with caution and patience will help us make the right decisions when needed, no matter what the situation is.