The Suitcase Lady

Turtles

May 17, 2016, 9:50 pm

This blog is for Joan, my favorite chelonophile.

The time has come to talk about turtles. National Turtle Day, May 23, will arrive soon, and here are some facts to celebrate.

Turtles, tortoises and terrapins are all reptiles. They belong to the order Chelonia, from the Greek word for tortoise. If you classify yourself as a lover of turtles, you are a chelonophile.

Turtles are terrific survivors. We people species are the new kids on neighborhood earth.  The oldest turtle fossils date to over 220 million years ago, the Triassic period. Amazingly, the ancient fossils are nearly identical anatomically to the turtles on earth now. (Mother Nature does not mess with designs that work.) Over 300 species of turtles currently inhabit the planet.

The three major groups of turtles display marked differences. Turtles spend most of their lives in water, either the ocean or freshwater lakes, ponds or rivers. They have webbed feet, or in the case of sea turtles, flippers.

Tortoises live on land and eat grasses, low growing shrubs and even cactuses. Their webless, round, stumpy feet are perfectly adapted to walk on land. Desert tortoises use their front legs to dig burrows.

Terrapins can’t make up their minds, dividing their time equally between land and water. They are often found in swampy places.

Desert tortoises hold the longevity record living up to 150 years. Sea turtles live about 70   years. Freshwater turtles can survive from 20 to 50 plus years.

The chelonian champion for size and weight is the leatherback sea turtle with a shell up to eight feet long. It is also the record weight holder at up to 1,800 pounds. The speckled Cape tortoise is among the smallest family members. It has a shell length of 3.1 inches  and weighs a mere five ounces.

MT with friendIf you would like to invite a turtle to dinner on May 23, here are some menu tips from the San Diego Zoo.

“At the San Diego Zoo, our aquatic turtles are fed a variety of foods including earthworms, minnows, goldfish, chopped mice, fruit, yams and leafy greens. They are also given a special treat the keepers call Jell-O wigglers, a gelatin ball that contains pellets with vitamins and minerals. Our land tortoises are feed a variety of vegetables and leafy greens, along with occasional treats like hibiscus flowers, melons, cactus pads and tomatoes. Our Galapagos tortoises in particular seem to be attracted to anything red, and they love their tomatoes!”

Please note that it is inadvisable to invite a leatherback turtle over for a meal. They  love to dine on poisonous jellyfish.

 

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