Turtles …. Tortoises They Live Everywhere …. Oceans …. Deserts …. Swamps

By  | September 7, 2018 | Filed under: Interesting Facts, News

Everybody loves turtles and tortoises. They’re often cute in their own weird, sometimes freaky way and always fascinating. But did you know there were so many turtles out there ….some too cute for words and some just straight out weird:

African helmeted turtle (Pelomedusa subrufa)

African helmeted turtle (Pelomedusa subrufa)

It’s hard not to smile back at this grinning guy. But don’t let that goofy smile fool you. This species is omnivorous and will eat just about anything it can get its jaws on, including carrion. People have even watched groups of these turtles snag and drown doves and other relatively large prey, dragging them to the depths of the pond to dine. They look cute, but they’re stone cold killers.

Mata mata turtle (Chelus fimbriatus)

Mata mata turtle (Chelus fimbriatus)

That is not a collection of rocks and rotting leaves at the bottom of the pond …that’s a mata mata turtle. This South American species is perfectly camouflaged for its preferred habitat of slow-moving streams, stagnate pools and marshes. With a carapace that looks like bark and a head and neck that look like fallen leaves, the fish that swim close enough to be sucked up for lunch never have a chance to see what’s coming. The species has a particularly long snout that it uses like a snorkel, sticking it just out of the water to breathe.

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Red-bellied short-necked turtle (Emydura subglobosa)

This adorable turtle species is popular in the pet trade. It features a bright red belly when it is young, which fades to orange or yellow as it ages. Native to tropical Australia and New Guinea, it grows to about 10 inches long and can make for a hardy pet with the right care.

Spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera)

Spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera)

This is one of the largest freshwater turtles found in North America, and females can grow a carapace of up to about 18 inches long. Found from Canada to Mexico, these turtles are long-lived. They don’t reach sexual maturity until 8-10 years of age, and can live to be more than 50 years old. The species gets its name from the small spines that project from the upper front portion of its carapace, making it look even more like its long lost dinosaur relatives.

Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi)

Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi)

This is one of several species of turtles with particularly long necks. The Roti Island snake-necked turtle’s carapace can reach between 7-9 inches long, and its neck can be equally as long. But this species is critically endangered — it is one of the most sought-after turtles in the pet trade, which has led to serious declines of wild populations. The two or three populations left are in a tiny area of Rote Island, and they are still often illegally captured for trade. Thus, collection by humans is tipping this species toward extinction.

Radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata)

Radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata)

Native to Madagascar, this beautiful tortoise species is critically endangered due to habitat loss, poaching and collection for the pet trade. The species grows to a length of about 16 inches, and they can weigh about 35 pounds. Like many tortoise species, the radiated tortoise can enjoy a long life. In fact, the oldest radiated tortoise on record was Tu’i Malila, who died at an estimated 188 years of age.

Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

The leatherback is the rock star of the sea turtles. This species is the largest of them all, dives the deepest, and travels the farthest. They’re also real tough guys, actually fighting back and chasing away predators like sharks. They may have a face only a mother could love, but in terms of sheer amazingness, this species has it in spades. Unlike other sea turtles, it doesn’t have a shell; instead its back is covered with skin and oily flesh. And yet, like most sea turtle species, the leatherback is endangered and still declining. From being caught on fishing lines by commercial fisheries to ingesting plastic mistaken for jellyfish, humans are having a troubling effect on this ancient turtle species.

Cantor's giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii)

Cantor’s giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii)

There’s a reason this species has “giant” in its name. It can grow up to 6 feet long. The strange-looking turtle has a very broad head, with eyes placed close to its snout. It spends about 95 percent of its life buried in the sand or mud at the bottom of freshwater rivers and streams, lying motionless in wait for prey that it ambushes. It surfaces only twice a day to take a breath. Otherwise, it simply stays put, waiting for a careless crustacean or fish to swim by and become lunch. Like so many species, the Cantor’s giant softshell turtle is listed as endangered.

African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)

African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)

As if straight out of a comic book or a dinosaur cartoon, this species of tortoise rocks some impressive “spurs” along its forelegs. Found along the southern edge of the Sahara desert, it is the third largest tortoise species in the world, and the largest mainland tortoise (both the larger Galapagos tortoise and Aldabra giant tortoise are island-dwellers). They can grow to 2-3 feet long over their 50- to 150-year lifespan. Because they’re popular in the pet trade, they are often removed from the wild and are listed as a species vulnerable to extinction.

Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii)

Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii)

The largest freshwater turtle in the world based on weight — they can weigh well over 150 pounds — the alligator snapping turtle is found in the southeastern United States. It gets its name both through its primitive, ‘gator-like looks as well as through its ambush-style hunting technique. It’s mouth is camouflaged and has a worm-like appendage on the tip of its tongue to lure in prey, which can be anything from fish to snakes to water birds to other turtles. Lying completely motionless with its mouth wide open, it literally just waits for an animal to get close to its mouth, which it then snaps shut with incredible speed.

Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra)

Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra)

The giant Galapagos tortoise is perhaps one of the most famous terrapins in the world. It is the world’s largest living species of tortoise, and lives for over 100 years in the wild. In fact, one captive Galapagos tortoise lives to be 170 years old.  The biggest Galapagos tortoises on record reached 880 pounds and over 6 feet long. The species is native to the Galapagos islands, and subspecies are found on seven of the islands in the archipelago. Humans caused species numbers to dive, due to hunting, habitat loss and introduction of non-native species. But recovery programs have helped to bring numbers back. Even so, the species is still listed as vulnerable to extinction.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

These sea turtles are found in coastal waters in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. They get their name from the sharp point at the end of their upper jaw, resembling a raptor’s bill. This helps them get food from the crevices of coral reefs. They also have a unique feature apart from other sea turtles — a claw on each of the front flippers. Despite their critically endangered status, their eggs are still collected for food, and they are still caught for meat and for their beautifully colored shells which are made into jewelry and trinkets. There are only around 20,000 nesting females left — and hawksbills don’t reach maturity until about 30 years of age and only nest every 2-4 years. Their slow reproduction rate means that juveniles and adults need far more protection from humans to avoid extinction.

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