Turtles | Tortoises | Testudines

Turtles and tortoises are members of the Testudines reptile family characterized by their hard shells that allow them to retract their head and limbs for protection. Turtles and tortoises are separable by the fact that tortoises are land-dwelling creatures while most turtle species are at least partly aquatic creatures. Most tortoises live 80-150 years, although this is a debated fact with the Aldabra giant tortoise rumored to be able to live 255 years. Tortoises are typically herbivores, but turtles will eat aquatic plants, insects, snails, and small fish. Both turtles and tortoises are cold-blooded and rely on their habitat to maintain a comfortable body temperature.

What do turtles eat?

What a turtle eats depends on their species, kind of jaw it has, and the food that is available in its habitat. Some species are carnivores and others are vegetarians, but most turtles are omnivores. For example, leatherback sea turtles eat mostly jellyfish while freshwater turtles eat worms, snails, crustaceans, water plants, algae, and fallen fruit.

How do turtles mate?

Turtles mate in the spring and early summer. Some male turtles fight for the right to mate with a female while others use a mating ritual. In order to mate, the male and female turtles interlace their tails so that their shell openings align together. The female turtle later makes a nest and lays the fertilized eggs to hatch.

How long do turtles live?

How long a turtle lives is determined by its species, but most turtles can live a few decades if they survive the first few years of life. Large turtle species and tortoises can live long lives of more than 100 years.

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Turtles | Tortoises

Galápagos Giant Tortoise
Dimensioned size comparison drawing of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise compared to the size of an average person

The Galapagos Giant Tortoise, also referred to as the Galapagos tortoise, inhabits only two remote archipelagos: the Galapagos Islands 1000 km west of mainland Ecuador, and Aldabra in the Indian Ocean, 700 km east of Tanzania. They are the largest living species of tortoise, with tortoises on islands with humid highlands being larger with domed shells and short necks. Tortoises on islands with dry lowlands tend to be smaller. Distinguishing characteristics include a large bony shell of a dull brown or gray color that can hold its head, neck, and fore limbs when drawn back for protection. The Galapagos tortoise is an herbivore that consumes a diet of cacti, grasses, leaves, lichens, berries, oranges, and milkweed.

The typical Galápagos Giant Tortoise has an overall height of 27.0”-36.0” (69-91 cm) and body length of 48.0”-60.0” (122-152 cm). An average Galápagos Giant Tortoise weighs between 330-550 lb (150-250 kg) and has a typical lifespan of 100-150 (wild), 175 (captivity).

Series of elevation and plan illustrations of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise in various positions
The Galapagos Giant Tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise and inhabits only two remote archipelagos. Distinguishing characteristics include a large bony shell of a dull brown or gray color that can hold its head, neck, and fore limbs when drawn back for protection.

The typical Galápagos Giant Tortoise has an overall height of 27.0”-36.0” (69-91 cm) and body length of 48.0”-60.0” (122-152 cm). An average Galápagos Giant Tortoise weighs between 330-550 lb (150-250 kg) and has a typical lifespan of 100-150 (wild), 175 (captivity).

Series of elevation and plan illustrations of a Galápagos Giant Tortoise in various positions
Galápagos Giant Tortoise
Height:
27.0”-36.0” | 69-91 cm
Width:
Length:
48.0”-60.0” | 122-152 cm
Depth:
Weight:
330-550 lb | 150-250 kg
Area:
Scientific Name
Chelonoidis nigra
Lifespan
100-150 (wild), 175 (captivity)

Drawings include:
Galápagos Giant Tortoise side elevation, side (person), side (walking), front, plan

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