Types of turtles
Did you know that turtles didn't used to be able to pull their necks and legs into their shells, and that some still don't hide in their shells today? Millions of years ago, when turtles were living with dinosaurs, their bodies weren't designed to retract, or pull in, the neck or legs. Since then, some types of turtles have adapted to allow this protective hiding feature.
Surviving Throughout History
Turtles are reptiles that have been around for more than 200 million years. In fact, fossils from the dinosaur age show that turtles today look pretty much the same as they did way back then.
Today there are about 270 or more known species of turtles. Unfortunately, many of these turtles are rare or face the possibility of extinction, or dying out completely.
Causes of endangered turtles include pollution, predators, and when turtle eggs are discovered and destroyed. The main types of turtles live in freshwater, on land, or in the ocean, but no matter where they live, turtles always lay their eggs on land.
Common Freshwater Turtles
One of the most popular types of turtle is the common freshwater turtle. If you have ever found a box turtle or a painted turtle, then you discovered this type of turtle.
Freshwater turtles have webbed feet, which are very useful as these turtles spend most of their time swimming in freshwater ponds. Their legs are also shaped like paddles, and help turtles trudge through water.
Other turtles included in this family, or group, are sliders, diamondback terrapins, Blanding's turtles, and the spotted, wood and Muhlenberg's pond turtles.
Another type of turtle is the land tortoise. These turtles live on land, crawling around on the earth using their clubbed-shaped feet. They also have a high domed top shell, or carapace, that is used as protection from predators. Besides protection, the number of rings on a turtle's carapace can also show how old it is.
Tortoises can live as long as or longer than humans. The oldest known tortoise lived to be 176 years old, and some believe that tortoises have lived to be 250 years old.
Musk Turtles and Mud Turtles
A different type of freshwater turtle is the musk turtle, or mud turtle. These turtles are native to North and South America. They enjoy spending their time in water that moves slowly and has sandy, muddy bottom floors.
Musk turtles or mud turtles are generally smaller in size. They are also nocturnal, which means they are active during the night. One musk turtle known as the stink pot sends out a very stinky smell.
Another type of freshwater turtle is the soft-shelled turtle. Soft-shell turtles do have shells, but the shell is not covered in horny scales like other turtles. Instead, this type of turtle has a leathery shell. Soft-shell turtles also have flat bodies. One nickname for this turtle is the pancake turtle, because of it's flat shape.
The snapping turtle is mainly found in North America. This freshwater turtle is known for its snappy attitude when it is out of water crawling on land. The neck of a snapping turtle has a wide range, and stretches in many directions. Then they use their strong jaws to snap at possible predators.
The two families of marine turtles include sea turtles and leatherbacks. Leatherbacks are the largest and heaviest turtles and can weigh around 1,100 pounds. That's about half a ton!
Both families live in salt water, in the ocean or sea. Because of their habitat, marine turtles typically have oar-like legs and no toes. Also, the neck and legs of marine turtles do not retract back into the shell. The design of their bodies means some marine turtles are very fast in the water. In fact, some marine turtles can swim at a speed of around 20 miles per hour.
A Mixed Diet
Did you know that turtles who live in the water need to actually be in water in order to swallow their food? Depending on the type, turtles are either carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores. So what do turtles eat
? A turtle that is a carnivore has a diet that includes mostly meat. Some of the tasty treats for a carnivorous turtle include aquatic insects, snails, worms, fish, crustaceans, clams and jellyfish.
Turtles that are herbivores eat mostly plants. Many land turtles are herbivores and feed on leaves, grass, bushes and shrubs.
Omnivores eat both meat and vegetation. Turtles that are on this diet, such as snapping turtles, may munch on aquatic plants one minute and fish the next.