The World of Turtles – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Facts on Turtles

-Turtles have no teeth

-Turtles are reptiles

-Their shells are made from fifty different bones

-The earliest turtles evolved over 200 million years ago

-The largest Turtles is the Leatherback which can grow up to 10 feet long 

-The smallest Turtle is the Speckled Padloper which grow up to 5 inches long

-Only 1-2 out of 1000 turtle hatchlings grow to adulthood

-Sea Turtles can swim up to 35 miles an hour

-The difference between a Turtle and a Tortoise is that a Tortoise can live entirely above water and do not have flippers whereas Turtles live in water, apart from when they go on land to lay their eggs

-Turtles can live from 50 – 80 years in the wild


Turtle Soup

In Victorian times Turtles were a popular delicacy eating with ‘Turtle Soup’, but due dwindling numbers and the increase in environmental protesting, it became illegal in many countries around the world.

Some species of freshwater turtle are plentiful in the US and are not protected, but in parts of Asia, the endangered sea turtle is routinely caught illegally and eaten. Given the slow growth rate of sea turtles, this is a tragedy in the making.

They eat the meat of the turtles and often keep the shells using them for decoration and in some cases using their shells as bowls.



Sea turtles journey between land and sea and swim thousands of ocean miles during their long lifetimes, exposing them to countless threats. They wait decades until they can reproduce, returning to the same beaches where they were born to lay their eggs, few of which will yield hatchings that survive their first year of life. Beyond these significat natural challenges, sea turtles face multiple threats caused by humans.

Over harvesting and illegal trade

Sea turtles continue to be harvested unsustainably both for human consumption and trade of their parts. Turtle meat and eggs are a source of food and income for many people around the world. Some also kill turtles for medicine and religious ceremonies. Tens of thousands of sea turtles are lost this way every year, devastating populations of already endangered Green and Hawksbill Turtles.

Killing of turtles for both domestic and international markets still continues. While international trade in all sea turtles species and their parts is prohibited under the Convention on International trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, illegal trafficking persists.


Interesting facts about turtles

All turtles can go without breathing for several hours, but the western painted turtle can go without breathing for 30 hours at room temperature and four months at 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turtles and tortoises are believed to have existed for about 210 million years, making them one of the oldest organisms on Earth.

Most turtle eggs have temperature-dependent sex determination. Eggs that are kept at warm temperatures produce females, and eggs kept at cooler temperatures produce males.

A baby western painted turtle egg can freeze solid, and as long as nothing cracks it, the turtle will be just fine when the temperature rises and its body thaws out.

There are 331 species of turtles throughout the world.

The leatherback sea turtle is among the 61% of turtle species that are in danger of becoming extinct. 

The western pond turtle and the desert tortoise are the only turtles and tortoises species native to California.

The red-eared slider, a turtle variety that was commonly sold in pet shops, is the most widely distributed turtle in the world and exists on every continent except Antarctica.

Turtles in the Northern Hemisphere pull their heads straight into the shells; turtles in the Southern Hemisphere pull their heads in to the side, so just one eye is looking at you.

Sea Turtles


Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of sea Turtles are accidentally caught in shrimp trawl nets; long line hooks and in fishing gillnets every year. Sea Turtles need to reach the surface to breathe and therefor many drown once caught. This is one of the single greatest threats to most Sea Turtles, especially endangered loggerheads, greens and leatherbacks. This threat is increasing as fishing activity expands.


Deadly threats at every life stage

Tens of Thousands of sea turtles are lost each year to overharvesting and illegal trade

4,950 turtles are caught each year as bycatch by Indonesian Longline vessels alone


  • Leatherback

Leatherback turtles are named for their shell, which is leather-like rather than a hard shell like many other turtles. They are the largest marine turtle species and also one of the most migratory, crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Although their distribution is wide, numbers of leatherback turtles have seriously declined during the last century as a result of intense egg collection and fisheries bycatch.

Status: Critically Endangered

Length: 55-63 inches

Diet: Jellyfish


  • Loggerhead

Loggerhead turtles are named for their large heads that support powerful jaw muscles, allowing them to crush hard-shelled prey like clams and sea urchins. They are less likely to be hunted for their meat or shell compared to other marine turtles. Bycatch, the accidental capture of marine animals in fishing gear, is a serious problem for loggerhead turtles because they frequently come in contact with fisheries.

Status: Endangered

Length: 33-49 inches

Diet: Clams, sea urchins

  • Green turtle

The green turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among the different species. Green turtles are in fact named for the greenish colour of their cartilage and fat, not their shells. In the Eastern Pacific, a group of green turtles that have darker shells are called black turtles by the local community. Green turtles are found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. Like other sea turtles, they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches from where they hatched. Classified as endangered, green turtles are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.

Status: Endangered

Length: 31-47 inches

Diet: Sea grass


  • Flatback

Flatback sea turtles are found in coastal waters, and are reported to bask in the sun at the surface, sometimes with sea birds perched on their backs.

These turtles prefer shallow, soft-bottomed sea bed habitats that are far from reefs. They only very rarely leave the shallow waters of the continental shelf, and nest only in northern Australia, where beaches on small offshore islands are the most important sites. This is in stark contrast to the behaviour of all other marine turtle species, except for Kemp’s ridley.

Status: Data Deficient

Length: 31-37 inches

Diet: Crabs, other crustaceans, mollusks


  • Hawksill

Hawksbills are named for their narrow, pointed beak. They also have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells that form a serrated-look on the edges. These coloured and patterned shells make them highly-valuable and commonly sold as “tortoiseshell” in markets.

Status: Critically Endangered

Length: 30-35 inches

Diet: Sponges, sea anemones


  • Kemp’s ridley

The Kemp’s ridley turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle, and with a worldwide female nesting population roughly estimated at just 1,000 individuals, its survival truly hangs in the balance. Their perilous situation is attributed primarily to the over-harvesting of their eggs during the last century. And though their nesting grounds are protected and many commercial fishing fleets now use turtle excluder devices in their nets, these turtles have not been able to rebound.

Status: Critically Endangered 

Length: 24-28 inches

Diet: Crabs, other crustaceans, mollusks


  • Olive ridley

The name for this marine turtle is tied to the colour of its shell—an olive green hue. They are the smallest of the marine turtles and currently the most abundant. Their vulnerable status comes from the fact that they nest in a very small number of places, and therefore any disturbance to even one nest beach could have huge repercussions on the entire population.

Status: Vulnerable

Length: 24-28 inches

Diet: Crabs, other crustaceans, mollusks


Habitat loss

Sea turtles depend on beaches for nesting there eggs in. Uncontrolled coastal development, vehicle traffic on beaches and other human actives have disturbed and destroyed many of the sea turtles eggs around the world. Turtle feeding grounds such as coral reefs and sea grass beds are now damaged and destroyed by activities onsure, including sedimentation from clearing of land and nutrient runoff from agriculture.

Fancy diving with turtles?

Why not check out our group holidays where there are plenty of opportunities to see Green Sea and Hawksbill Turtles.

Wanna help save the turltes?

Why not adopt a Turtle through the WWF –>

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