If you’ve seen one turtle, you haven’t seen them all. That’s something worth keeping in mind whether you’re just interested in learning about these magnificent reptiles or you’re buying your 27th turtle for your outdoor aquarium. There are four main types of turtles, and although they all share some main characteristics, they also differ in a number of ways.
Here are some things that they share: all are ectotherms, meaning their internal temperature changes with the environment (in other words, they’re cold-blooded). Though many live near water, they cannot breathe through it. And just as you’d want to keep water off of a Mustang hood, a work of art or an aged cheese, turtle eggs won’t survive in the water, either.
Here are some other attributes of the four main types of turtles.
Chances are you’re familiar with this type of turtle. They’re recognizable by their high, dome-like shells, which have a seashell-like pattern on them. Box turtles are unique in that they can stuff their bodies entirely into their shell and close it off from the outside world, offering an excellent source of protection from predators. Breeds include the Eastern and Florida box turtles.
These turtles enjoy warm, tropical climates and hail from Mexico and South America. They’re called “wood turtles” because they often reside near woods or marshes. Some of the most common breeds are the ornate wood turtle and black wood turtle.
As the name implies, these turtles are water dwellers and include a large number of breeds, such as the snapping turtle, red-eared slider and African side-necked turtle. In order to swim better, they have webbing between their feet. Some find it hard to identify the different breeds of water turtles because there are so many of them. They’re also commonly referred to as sliders.
Alas, there’s a history in this country of ill-informed pet owners buying sliders and not providing the right type of environment for them (i.e. failing to install a filtration system in their tanks or giving them unreasonably small living quarters). If you’re thinking of buying a water turtle, consult with a pet store employee about everything you’ll need to give your turtle a long and rewarding life.
Map turtles are sometimes mistaken for sliders, because they have a similar body type. But the shell of this turtle features well-defined ridges that run down their shells, which gives them their nickname, the sawback turtle. These are aquatic animals who prefer large bodies of water over small, and they enjoy sunning themselves on nearby fallen trees and rocks. Common breeds include the ringed map turtle and the yellow-blotched map turtle.