Turtle Facts For Kids | Turtle Behavior, Diet, Habitat and Distribution

Turtles (Testudines) are reptiles that belong to the order of Testudines and they recognized by their obvious cartilaginous shell. More than 285 turtle species are found in the tropical and cool-temperate habitats all throughout the world.

They cover diverse habitats ranging from freshwater to saltwater territories with the size ranges from small to giant. The extensive physiological variation enables some species to dive deep into the water while others survive on upland habitats bearing no more than 10 centimeter rainfall annually.

They are known to plod too slowly, a locomotion which seems like imaginary more than the real. You really need to know all these turtle facts for kids and all the insights about their social behavior, communication, dietary preferences, and above all, their distinctive habits from other reptiles.

Turtle Facts For Kids

What is its Shell Used For?

The obvious reason of its dorsal bony carapace (shell) is to protect the species from potential predators but it also prevents the turtle from buffering tough environmental conditions.

Many species are capable to retract their head and shells absolutely inside the shell when distressed. The upper shell is called the carapace and is connected to the lower one via a bony bridge.

Aquatic species are primarily found in waters where large crocodiles also survive. Prominent among these turtles are Asian river turtles (such as crowned river turtle and painted roofed turtle), these buttresses configure bony chambers that encircles the lung and avoid compression during deep dives.

Size and Shape of Turtles

Different sizes and shapes of turtles explain a lot about their habitat environments. Some aquatic species evoke broad, flattened carapace which serves as a solar panel. A basking turtle maneuvers itself on the rock or log in order to expose the greater surface area to the sun.

The scutes of the carapace are gloomy in some northern species, thereby enables maximum absorption of solar radiation. Unlike other turtle species, aquatic ones show lower shells which are more streamlined probably to offer them less difficulty while swimming.

The turtles which hide themselves in shallow waters underneath the sand or a mud, present a highly flattened softshells.

Turtle’s Skull

The turtles have a fairly distinctive skull among all the extant vertebrates since it lacks temporal fenestra.

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Credit: www.mybarbados.org

Description and Behavior

Turtles are too unique in their external display to be compared with other reptilian species. These reptilian tanks are skillful in exposing and hiding their head and neck, combined with tails and limbs which are either partially or fully enclosed within the shell.

In some species like tortoises and mud turtles, the shell is fairly hard, that also offers a small opening for the head and appendages. In other species such as leatherback and softshell turtles, the shell is not so robust.

One of the most common characteristics that turtles generally share is that their neck offers a significant flexibility which is mainly due to the eight cervical vertebrae.

All turtles are oviparous. The number of eggs which the females deposit can be as many as hundred or sometimes only just one or two. The size of the female primarily determines the number of eggs in a clutch; the small turtles generally lay no more than two eggs; large turtles, on the other hand, lay more than a dozen.

Many turtles show a stereotypic nest-digging behavior. They usually employ their hindlimbs while digging egg chambers, and which work alternately to scoop out a flask-shaped chamber as deep as the hindlimbs can go in.

Turtles seem to have emerged in the Triassic Period some 220 million years ago. Previously, they are thought to be the later evolution of anapsid reptiles (for e.g. lanthanosuchids, millerettids, nytiphruretians, pareiasaurs, procolophonoids); however, recent study argues for a diapsid origin (the group consisting of the crocodilians, the birds, and the squamate).

Apart from their obvious ventral bony plastron, they have limb girdles within their ribs. All forms of turtles do not show teeth, exhibiting internal fertilization while lays shelled amniotic eggs.

Turtle’s Limbs

While the freshwater turtles have laterally flattened limbs, the limbs of aquatic species end up in five independent digits. Many tortoises and turtles exhibit reduced phalanges. Some highly aquatic species seem to have paddle-like limbs and these turtles include seaturtles and pig-nose turtles.

Turtle’s Skin

Turtles also show a fair degree of variation in their skin in that some appears to have scaleless smooth texture as is observed in softshell aquatic turtles while others display a coarse scaly texture.

The large dense textures are adapted to their respective environments. Besides in some turtles, it also offers a cryptic camouflage against predators and also helps in prey acquisition.

The Largest Turtle

Leatherback sea turtle is the largest living species as it grows to a length of 96 inches (244 cm), with the weight measuring up to 867 kg (1,197 lb).

Many freshwater turtles are also believed to attain impressive sizes; the alligator snapping turtle attains a length of 80 cm (31 inches), and weigh around 113 kg (249 lb); similarly, Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle (length; 120 cm or 47 inches), and weight up to 150 kg (330 lb).

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Turtle’s Eggs

The female turtle deposit her eggs in a flask-shape chambers mined into the ground. In some species, the females deposit eggs in a nest, or sometimes in a decaying vegetation. They are also known to litter in the nests of other animals provided the nest is entirely submerged either in land or underwater.

The time the females spend in guarding her eggs, varies with species, some leave soon after depositing while others spend a reasonable time concealing the nest. Although Leatherback sea turtles are vulnerable on land, yet they do unclear their nesting site on land before finally go back to the sea.

Overall, turtles are not the best when it comes to parental care. The small turtles litter only one to four eggs each clutch, whereas the large seaturtles are often found laying hundred eggs at a time.

The shape of the turtle’s eggs ranges from elongate to spherical. The spherical-shaped eggs are less prone to dehydration possibly due to their lowest surface-to-volume ratio.

Some species show leathery flexible shells while others have inflexible brittle shells. The brittle-shelled eggs are least likely to be affected by their surroundings that is to say, losing and absorbing less water, as compared to the flexible-shelled eggs.

The latter, however, develop much faster. The turtles living in moist dry climates and are not likely to dig sophisticated nests, usually lay brittle-shelled eggs. Similarly, the species nesting in flooding areas such as beaches, conditions where rapid development is imperative, apt to lay eggs with flexible shells.

Most species choose their nesting sites from the existing upland habitats within their foraging areas. Nonetheless, there are some such as seaturtles or river turtles that are known to migrate great distances in search of their nests.

Seaturtles, in particular, are likely to migrate 2,796 miles (4,500 km) in order to find a suitable location for the nest. The large freshwater turtles inhabiting South America and Asia likewise  nest en masse. The olive ridley sea turtle are often found in large numbers (as many as 200,000 females) in the same nesting site.

Where Do Turtles Live 

Turtles live in all the continents except in Antarctica. These species are diverse so much so and they can survive in both tropical and temperate regions, alongside all bodies of water.

Australoamerican Side-Neck Turtles (Pleurodia), Chelidae inches)

The Australoamerican Side-Neck Turtles have a carapace length of 12 – 14 cm with many species measures at 20 – 35 cm. These turtles display flattened skulls and shells. They withdraw their neck horizontally and are largely aquatic; seldom do they leave water but only to deposit eggs.

During the hibernation period, those species that reside in marshes and ponds such as P. umbrina, are known to bury themselves in the mud.

Some species such as Neotropical Platemys platycephalus and Phyrnops zuliae are semi-aquatic; they leave the water to wander around on the forest floor.

These species are found in the lands of New Guinea, South America, and Australia. Many chelids are highly aquatic and some so highly (for e.g. Elusor macrurus, Rheodytes leukops).

Generally, the chelids are opportunistic feeders as they eat all the food ranges from periphyton, filamentous algae, to the small vertebrates, molluscs, and arthropods. They are omnivores.

Feeding Ecology and Diet

While some species are entirely herbivores as they feed on plants matter, others are carnivores and they rely solely on meat. Alongside this much variation, most turtles consume a mixture of animal and plant matter.

Some species show a diet variation within their own, i.e. they are carnivores at hatchlings     but when they grow to adulthood the diet becomes herbivorous.

Turtles Teeth

Despite the fact that modern turtles do not have teeth, the maxillary, premaxilliary, and dentary bones used for feeding, undergoes several modifications. A pronounced keratin-made beak is adapted to tear and hold food.

The herbivorous species contains a palate which helps in the maceration of plants matter. The increased maceration is facilitated due to the series of ridges in a palate. Macrocephaly, known for its large head, is likely to form in mollusk-feeding species.

Thanks to the strong musculature and broad crushing surfaces which enable them to consume surplus food and that indeed may be inaccessible to species that cannot extract this meal from the mollusk’s protective shell.

Turtle Facts for Kids – Video

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