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Turtles are reptiles.
Turtles have a hard shell that protects them like a shield, this upper shell is called a ‘carapace’.
Turtles also have a lower shell called a ‘plastron’.
Many turtle species (not all) can hide their heads inside their shells when attacked by predators.
Turtles have existed for around 215 million years.
Like other reptiles, turtles are cold blooded.
The largest turtle is the leatherback sea turtle, it can weigh over 900 kg! (2000 lb) Turtles lay eggs.
In some species of turtle the temperature determines if the egg will develop into a male or female, lower temperatures lead to a male while higher temperatures lead to a female.
Some turtles lay eggs in the sand and leave them to hatch on their own. The young turtles make their way to the top of the sand and scramble to the water while trying to avoid predators.
Sea turtles have special glands which help remove salt from the water they drink.
Many turtle species are endangered.
Turtles are reptiles with hard shells that protect them from predators. They are among the oldest and most primitive groups of reptiles, having evolved millions of years ago. Turtles live all over the world in almost every type of climate.
According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the turtle order, Testudines (or Chelonia), splits into two suborders, Cryptodira and Pleurodira, and then further splits into 13 families, 75 genera and more than 300 species.
"Turtle," "tortoise" and "terrapin" are often used interchangeably as synonyms, but there are distinct differences between the types of chelonians, according to the San Diego Zoo:
Turtles spend most of their lives in water. They are adapted for aquatic life, with webbed feet or flippers and a streamlined body. Sea turtles rarely leave the ocean, except to lay eggs in the sand. Freshwater turtles live in ponds and lakes, and they climb out of the water onto logs or rocks to bask in the warm sun. Tortoises are land animals. Their feet are round and stumpy, adapted for walking on land. They also dig burrows with their strong forelimbs, and slip underground when the sun gets too hot. Terrapins live on land and in water, usually in swamps, ponds, lakes and rivers. Size
With so many different types of turtle, there is no average size. The largest sea turtle species is the leatherback turtle. It weighs 600 to 1,500 lbs. (272 to 680 kilograms) and is about 4.5 to 5.25 feet (139 to 160 centimeters) long, according to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). The Galápagos tortoise grows up to 6 feet (183 cm) long and 573 lbs. (260 kg), according to the San Diego Zoo. The largest freshwater turtle in North America is the alligator snapping turtle. It can grow to 2.5 feet (80 cm) long and weigh as much as 200 lbs. (91 kg). The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is the largest softshell turtle. It measures up to 3.6 feet (1 m) across, and weigh up to 309 lbs. (140 kg).
One of the smallest turtles is the speckled Cape tortoise, according to the San Diego Zoo. Its shell is 3.1 inches (7.9 cm) long. It weighs about 5 ounces (142 grams).
A turtle's shell is a modified ribcage and part of its vertebral column, according to the Animal Diversity Web (ADW) at the University of Michigan. The top part of the shell is called the carapace, and the bottom is called the plastron, according to the San Diego Zoo. The shell is made up of about 60 bones that are covered by plates called scutes. Scutes are made of keratin, the same material that makes up humans' fingernails.
Many turtles are able to retract their heads and feet into their shells. Turtles are placed in the two suborders based on the method of retraction, according to ADW. Pleurodires pull their heads in sideways; cryptodires draw their heads straight back into the shell. Sea turtles have lost the ability to retract their heads.