We must help save Turtles from extinction. From the beautiful, graceful strokes of the Leatherback sea turtle gliding across the world's oceans to the snappy terrapins basking in their fresh-water lakes and huge, land dwelling tortoises made famous by Charles Darwin when he first visited the Galapagos Islands. We hope you agree that all these ancient reptiles are truly amazing creatures, ones which are increasingly at risk from humans through habitat destruction, climate change and pollution.
At Global WAKEcup we're pleased to help highlight and support the conservation of these remarkable animals, particularly in the run up to World Turtle Day, which is held on May 23rd every year. The day was created as an annual observance to help people protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, the founders of the day and American Tortoise Rescue do great work and have placed thousands of tortoises and turtles in caring homes. ATR assists when undersize or endangered turtles are confiscated and provides helpful information and referrals to people with sick, neglected or abandoned turtles.
To help celebrate these magnificent group of reptiles we have put together our Top 10 Turtles facts which we hope you can enjoy whilst drinking your morning cuppa, please do share some turtle love on May 23rd!
1. Turtles belong to the second oldest reptile group in the world called the Testudines, which includes turtles, tortoises, and terrapins – only the Tuataras (lizards that are found in New Zealand) are considered more primitive by scientists.
2. These creatures date back to the time of the dinosaurs – with the earliest known turtle fossils found in the upper Triassic. These fossils are nearly indistinguishable from modern turtles anatomically, meaning they've not changed much in over 200 million years! However, there are some Interesting differences between these pre-historic Proganochelys and modern day turtles including: The presence of palatal teeth (lost in modern species), the inability to retract the head within the shell, and the lack of a trochlear pulley in the jaw closing anatomy.
3. Turtles are easily recognised by their bony, cartilaginous shell, a super-tough casing covered with hard scutes or shields. These scutes are overlapping pieces of keratin (the same protein substance which is in your fingernail).
4. Just like your bones, a turtle’s shell is actually part of its skeleton. It’s made up of between 50 and 60 bones which include the turtle’s backbone, rib cage and spine.
5. Contrary to popular belief, a turtle cannot come out of its shell! The turtle’s shell grows with them, so it’s impossible for them to grow too big for it.The inner layer of the shell is fully attached to the turtle body and isn't shed as some people used to believe.
6. What a turtle eats depends partly on the environment it lives in. Land-dwelling turtles will consume a variety of insects, beetles, fresh fruit and vegetation, whereas sea dwellers will gobble everything from algae to squid and jellyfish. Unfortunately this has led to serious problems for marine based turtles in recent years, as they can easily mistake single-use plastic bags for transparent jellyfish and starve to death when the bags become stuck in their digestive system.
7. There are over 300 species of turtle, and each one has its own preferred diet. Some turtles are carnivores, while others follow a strictly vegetarian diet. Most turtles, however, are omnivores, eating both animals and plants. What a turtle eats also depends on the species — specifically, what kind of jaw it has for masticating food. Sea turtles have a varied diet, may eat seagrasses, algae, sponges, sea squirts, squid, shrimp, crabs, jellyfish, cuttlefish or sea cucumbers. For instance, leatherback sea turtles), which can reach a whopping 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) use their scissorlike jaws to munch on a jellyfish-only diet, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. Green sea turtles, on the other hand, are herbivores that feed on algae and seagrasses.
8. Turtles are ‘amniotes’ – they breathe air and lay their eggs on land, although many species live in or around water. The amniotic egg represents a critical divergence within the vertebrates, one enabling amniotes to reproduce on dry land—free of the need to return to water for reproduction as required of the amphibians. From this point the amniotes spread around the globe, eventually to become the dominant land vertebrates of the day and still around 100's of millions of years later.
9. These cold-blooded creatures have an incredibly long life span. The oldest ever recorded, named Tu”i Malila, of Tonga Island who passed away at the grand old age of 188 with some reports saying he was a gift from Captain Cook to the Tongan Royal Family. However, the lifespan of a turtle varies greatly depending on the species of turtle, a typical pet turtle can live between 10-80 years, while larger species can easily live over 100 years. According to the “Guinness Book of World Records”, sea turtles have the longest lifespan of up to 152 years.
A comparison of lifespan between selected animals:
Homo Sapiens - 100 years
Elephant — 70 years
Catfish — 60 years
Horse — 50 years
Chimpanzee — 40 years
Lion — 30 years
Tiger — 25 years
10. Sadly, many species of turtle are endangered! 129 of approximately 300 species of turtle and tortoise on Earth today are either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, according to the IUCN. Threats include loss of habitat, poaching and the illegal pet trade.
Help support turtles and the marine conservation society with every purchase. This year we have donated over £5000 to ocean conservation.