It's World Turtle Day!

World Turtle Day (May 23) was founded by the American Tortoise Rescue to spread knowledge about and respect for turtle and tortoise species around the globe. We’d like to support the cause by clueing you in on five fascinating facts about these amazing animals.

Fact #1 - You can tell turtles and tortoises apart by looking at their feet. You may already know that a key difference between turtles and tortoises is that the latter can’t swim, but this fact will also help you tell them apart at a glance. Since turtles are adept at moving about in water, they’ve got webbed flippers for feet whereas land-bound tortoises have stubbed feet, kind of like elephants.

Fact #2 - A turtle can feel through its shell. Though it may look like mere armor (which, if course it also is), a turtle’s scaly shell is part of its skeletal system and is connected to sensitive nerves. In other words, its shell is very much a part of its body so when handling a pet turtle, by all means, respect the shell!

Fact #3 - A turtle’s inner shell is made up of 60 bones, including some from their ribcage and backbone.

Fact #4 - You can guess a turtle’s age by counting the scaly rings on their outer shells. Pretty cool trick, but not quite as accurate as counting rings in a tree as their shell growth rate isn’t as constant.

Fact #5 - A turtle’s insides don’t age! Well, ok, they do age--just very slowly. We all know that turtles and tortoises can live a very long time, and one reason is because, unlike most other animals (us included!), their liver, kidneys and lungs don’t appear to degenerate much over time. In fact, a 100+ year old turtle’s organs are nearly as healthy and intact as that of an immature turtle! Now if only we knew their secret.

By Maya M.