9 Fascinating Facts About Turtles


Facts About Turtles
07 Jun, 2024

“Turtle” and “Tortoise” are often used interchangeably, as people lack awareness of the distinctions and real facts about turtles. Land-dweller tortoises primarily consume vegetation, whereas aquatic turtles exhibit a diverse diet, including small sea creatures.  

Many facts about turtles remain unknown. Are you curious? In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into some of the facts about turtles, shedding light on their captivating journey through time.

9 Fascinating Facts About Turtles 

1: Turtles are Ancient

The reptile Eunotosaurus is an ancient turtle that existed 260 million years ago during the Permian period. It is recognized as the earliest known ancestor of modern turtles. The Cretaceous Period (145 and 66 million years ago) marked the emergence of fully marine turtles. By 120 million years ago, their characteristics closely resembled those of today’s sea turtles. 

Furthermore, in China, the earliest turtle fossil was discovered in the early Upper Triassic age, dating back approximately 220 million years.  Since their emergence, turtles have dwelled in tropical and subtropical ocean waters globally. They can swim hundreds to thousands of kilometers, beating their reputation of sluggishness. Turtles are the oldest reptiles that have not been extinct till date.

2: There are Approximately 356 Species of Turtles

The entire family of turtles comprises 356 species, representing 3% of all reptile species, which is a relatively lesser number in comparison. Some of the sea species of turtles are loggerhead, leatherback, green turtle, hawksbill, flatback, Kemp’s ridley, and olive ridley. “Side-necked turtles” and “hidden-neck turtles” are notable groups of this reptile family, belonging to the suborder Pleurodira and Cryptodira, respectively. 

However, one of the most concerning facts about turtles is that according to the report of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), out of 356 species, 161 are currently listed as threatened, with 51 of them considered critically endangered or at the highest risk of extinction. Tragically, the death of Lonesome George in June 2012 ended an entire species. 

3: Turtles Don’t Have Teeth

Modern turtles lack teeth, while their ancestors possessed teeth in both the upper and lower jaw. “Odontochelys,” a creature from 200 million years ago referred to as a “toothed turtle,” had teeth in both jaws. 

However, currently, only newborn turtles have a single tooth. This egg-tooth, also known as a caruncle, is located at the front of the upper jaws and helps the turtle hatchlings break out of their eggs. Typically, it detaches a few months after hatching. However, turtles do not have any actual teeth, as per existing facts about turtles; instead, they use their powerful and oddly shaped beaks to eat. 

4: Turtles Can Live for a Long Time!

Jonathan, a giant turtle born in 1832, holds the title of “world’s oldest animal on land” in the Guinness World Records for being 187 years old in 2019. Shocking, right? Yes, turtles are indeed among the longest-living reptiles globally, with varying lifespans among species. For example, a Box turtle lives 20 to 50 years, whereas a Greek tortoise can survive 100 years or more. 

Telomeres are DNA-stranded structures that help preserve chromosome integrity and reduce the risk of age-related issues like cancer. Captivity is another reason turtles live longer with protection and appropriate care. Some species of turtles live 10 to 20 years in captivity, whereas others can live up to 150 years.

5: A Turtle’s Gender is Determined by Temperature

Most animals’ sex is determined by sex chromosomes. However, turtles diverge from this pattern as they lack sex chromosomes, and temperature primarily identifies the sex. This process is known as temperature-dependent sex determination or TSD.

Studies have shown that turtle eggs incubating below 81.86 degrees Fahrenheit will produce male turtles, while eggs incubating above 88.8 degrees Fahrenheit will result in female turtles. However, the extreme temperature fluctuation causes the production of a mix of male and female baby turtles.

6: Leatherback Sea Turtle— The Largest Turtle Species

Leatherback Sea Turtles are the largest turtle species, weighing between 550 and 2,000 pounds and reaching lengths of up to six feet. Its unique characteristic of lacking a hard shell and rubbery skin sets it apart from other species. 

This reptile is typically found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, with a migratory tendency that involves crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. However, despite its impressive size and adaptability, the Leatherback Sea Turtle is now on the list of ‘endangered’ per the U.S. federal government’s observation.   

7: Turtles Can Sleep Underwater

Yes, this is one of the surprising facts about turtles. But do all turtles sleep underwater? Some, like box turtles, don’t, while others, such as mud turtles, musk turtles, and painted turtles, prefer this sleeping place for 4 to 7 hours. 

You might wonder how turtles can endure extended periods underwater. The diving response enables turtles to survive underwater with physiological changes that conserve oxygen and energy. It decreases heart rate and blood flow to vital organs like the brain, heart, and lungs, causing them to breathe with limited oxygen.

8: Turtles are Omnivores

Most turtles are omnivores, though their specific diet varies depending on the species. However, you can also find herbivorous and carnivorous turtles within different families.   

For example, hawksbills and leatherbacks hunt sponges and jellyfish, respectively, while green turtle hatchlings are omnivorous and more into algae, seagrasses, and seaweed. Similarly, the omnivorous Olive Ridley dives into animals and plants, including crabs, lobster, shrimp, urchins, jellies, algae, and fish. 

9: Turtles are Cold Blooded

Like all reptiles, turtles are ectothermic or cold-blooded and rely on external sources like sunlight to regulate their body temperature. A sudden downfall in temperature can make turtles lethargic as they struggle to adjust to the cooler environment. Due to the rapid decline in temperatures, turtles are isolated in one place and can’t move to warmer zones, causing a form of hypothermia or cold stunning.


The world of turtles is as diverse and intriguing as the ecosystems they inhabit. Facts like turtles can sleep underwater, they evolved 260 millions years ago, they can live up to 187 years, and more. After delving into the fascinating facts about turtles, we must contribute to evident initiatives of conservation to prevent their extinction. Human activities, including inadequate pet care and hunting, play a major role in declining the number of turtle species. Hence, it is high time to participate in wildlife reservations where creatures like turtles and tortoises can be protected from being extinct.


What are the 5 facts about turtles?

1. Turtles are ancient and emerged 260 million years ago.
2. There are approximately 356 species of turtles.
3. Turtles can live for a long time up to 187 years.
4. A turtle’s gender is determined by temperature.
5. Turtles can sleep up to 7 hours underwater.

How long can a turtle live?

A turtle can live from 20 to more than 100 years depending on its species and treatment. The 187 years of living of a turtle named Jonathan is considered a world record.

Are turtles omnivores?

Most turtles, including the red-eared and painted turtles, are omnivorous. However, hawksbills and leatherbacks are fond of sponges and jellyfish.

Can turtles sleep underwater?

Yes, many turtles sleep underwater, but not all. Box turtles are not on this list while mud turtles, musk turtles, and painted turtles can rest 4 to 7 hours underwater.

Are turtles cold-blooded?

Yes, all turtles are cold-blooded which prevents them from regulating the body’s temperature. They depend on external sources like sunlight to adjust the heat to survive.

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