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The Turtles Portal


Loggerhead sea turtle

Turtles are reptiles characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield. The earliest known turtles date from 157 million years ago. Turtles are ectotherms—they vary their internal temperature according to the ambient environment (commonly known as cold-bloodedness). However, leatherback sea turtles have noticeably higher body temperature than surrounding water because of their high metabolic rate. Though turtles live in and around water, they breathe air and lay eggs on land.

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Painted turtle
The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is the only species of Chrysemys, a genus of the pond turtle family. It lives in slow-moving fresh waters, from southern Canada to Louisiana and northern Mexico, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Fossils show that the painted turtle existed 15 million years ago, but four regionally based subspecies (the eastern, midland, southern and western) evolved at about the time of the last ice age. The painted turtle is 10–25 cm (4–10 in) long and weighs 300–500 g (11–18 oz); females are larger than males. Its shell is smooth, oval, and flat-bottomed. Its skin is olive to black with red, orange, or yellow stripes on its extremities.

The turtle eats aquatic vegetation, algae, and small water creatures including insects, crustaceans, and fish. Although they are frequently consumed as eggs or hatchlings by rodents, canines, and snakes, the adult turtles' hard shells protect them from most predators except alligators and raccoons.

Reliant on warmth from its surroundings, the painted turtle is active only during the day, when it basks for hours on logs or rocks. During winter, the turtle hibernates, usually in the muddy bottoms of waterways. In spring and autumn, the turtles mate. From late spring to mid-summer, the females dig nests on land and lay their eggs. Hatched turtles grow until sexual maturity: 2–9 years for males, 6–16 for females. Adults in the wild may live for more than 40 years.

In the traditional tales of Algonquian tribes, the colorful turtle played the part of a trickster. Now, the painted turtle is the US's second most popular pet turtle, although trapping is increasingly restricted. Habitat loss and road killings have also reduced the turtle's numbers, but its ability to live in human-disturbed settings has helped it remain the most abundant turtle in North America. Only in Oregon and British Columbia is its range in danger of being encroached upon. Perhaps because it is so widespread, four US states name the painted turtle as their official reptile. The species is particularly popular in British Columbia, where businesses name themselves after it, but turtles in the province are down to a few thousand.


Did you know?

  • ...that one of only five extant Rafetus swinhoei softshelled turtles is thought by residents of Hanoi, Vietnam to be the magical Golden Turtle God named Kim Qui?

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Florida Box Turtle Digon3.jpg
Credit: Digon3

The Florida box turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri) is endemic to the U.S. state of Florida and the extreme southeastern portion of Georgia. It can be found in damp environments, such as wetlands, marshlands, and near swamps, but usually does not enter water deep enough to swim.


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