How much do you know about tortoises and turtles? In this post, we share some fun and fascinating facts that you may not already know about these creatures.
Tortoises Are Ancient
Tortoises have been around for over 200 million years – longer than lizards, birds, mammals, crocodiles and snakes.
They Can Live a Very Long Time
Some turtles and tortoises can live to over 100 years old – and beyond! One such tortoise was Harriet, who is said to have originally been found and looked after for by Charles Darwin from 1835 and later arrived at Australia Zoo. She died there in 2006 and was believed to have been 175 at the time.
They Can Live Almost Anywhere
Turtles can live in most climates that are warm enough for them to breed. They live on all continents except Antarctica.
Turtle Shells Are Complex
A turtle shell contains 60 interconnected bones.
A Group of Tortoises is Called a Creep
However, most tortoises are loners who prefer their own company.
The Scales on a Tortoise Shell Are Known as Scutes
The scales on the outer shell of a tortoise are made of the same keratin as human fingernails. This protects against injury, damage and infection.
The Colour of the Shell Indicates Origin
A lighter shell indicates that a tortoise originally came from a warmer country. The lightest known shade means that the tortoise originates from the southern part of the Sahara Desert.
Tortoises Can Hold Their Breath For a Good While
Tortoises empty their lungs before going back into their shell and can last for some time without coming out for oxygen. If they sense a threat, they can often be heard exhaling in preparation for going into their shell.
It’s Not Easy to Tell Their Gender
It’s not as simple as you might think to tell the gender of a tortoise. This can only happen when they reach a particular size, which can vary depending on the breed in question. The plastron (the bottom shell) is usually the easiest way to differentiate; it tends to be flatter for females and more curved for males. Generally speaking, male tortoises will be larger than their female counterparts and with longer tails.
They Smell With Their Throats
As is common with reptiles in general, tortoises use the roof of their mouth to smell. This is where their vomeronasal organ (otherwise known as the Jacobson’s Organ) is located.