11 Amazing Facts About Turtles (and How to Tell Them Apart)

Turtles are beautiful, ancient creatures that are a delight to see underwater (if you are lucky enough to spot one). They have been around for over 200 million years and some can travel thousands of miles over their lifetime. We think that turtles are fascinating animals, and so we decided to put together a list of amazing turtle facts for you to impress your friends with at your next trivia night.

Read on to find out 11 turtle-y awesome facts, and learn how to tell the seven species apart, too.

The facts

  • Turtles belong to one of the oldest groups of reptiles in the world and date back to over 200 million years ago
  • There are seven species of sea turtles and they are all considered either endangered or threatened
  • Only around one in every 1000 turtle hatchlings survives to adulthood
  • Depending on the species some turtles (eg. leatherbacks) will travel thousands of miles each year, whereas others (eg. hawksbill) will stay in a smaller area their whole life
  • Most turtles will eat jellyfish, and particular species might eat sea grass, crustaceans, or sea sponges
  • The sex of the hatchlings will depend on the temperature of the nest
  • Turtles do not have teeth, instead they have a beak they use to grasp their food
  • Turtle shells are made of bones that are fused together, making them extremely strong
  • The largest sea turtle ever recorded was 2.5m/8.2ft long and the same wide (flipper to flipper), it weighed over 900kg/1984lbs!
  • Female turtles will return to the same beach that they were hatched on to lay their eggs
  • Turtles are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field which helps them to navigate so well

If you are dying to swim with turtles but you are unsure where to head to, here are our 4 Best Places to Swim With Turtles

How to differentiate between species

There are seven species of sea turtles. Do you know how to tell the difference? Here are some clues to help you.

Green turtle

Average carapace (shell)size: 78-112cm/31-44in

Average weight:68-190kg/150-419lb

Where they are found: Tropical and subtropical waters worldwide.

Unique features:Green tinge to the body with dark brown/black and yellow markings on head and limbs, small head with one pair of prefrontal scales above eyes, oval/heart-shaped shell with large, non overlapping scales.

Good buoyancy control is key to diving with marine life to ensure you do not kick up sand or harm the animals. Here are 5 Tips to Perfect Your Buoyancy.

Hawksbill turtle

Average carapacesize:61-91cm/24-36in

Average weight:45-68kg/100-150lb

Where they are found: Tropical and subtropical waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Unique features:Beautiful amber colored shells with large overlapping scales, tapered head with a pointed beak, pair of claws adorning each flipper.

Leatherback turtle

Average carapacesize:130-183cm/51-72in

Average weight:300-500kg/660-1100lb

Where they are found: Migrate as far north as Canada but nest on tropical beaches.

Unique features: The largest turtle species in the world, a single-piece shell with five ridges, dark skin with white or pink spots.

Loggerhead turtle

Average carapacesize:90cm/35in

Average weight:70-187kg/155-412lb

Where they are found: Tropical and temperate waters throughout the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

Unique features:Yellow/brownish skin, red/brown heart-shaped shell, big and thick head (hence the name).

If you are lucky enough to spot a turtle while scuba diving, you will probably want to capture an awesome picture of it. Here is our Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Photography.

Flatback turtle

Average carapacesize:76-96cm/30-38in

Average weight:70-90kg/155-200lb

Where they are found: Coastal waters of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Unique features: Smooth and flat dome-shaped shell with upturned edges, olive green/gray coloring on shell, head, and limbs, underside is a pale yellow color.

Kemp’s Ridley turtle

Average carapacesize:70cm/28in

Average weight:32-45kg/70-100lb

Where they are found: Temperate to subtropical waters in the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Unique features:Triangular head, slightly hooked beak, large claw on each flipper, gray/green circular shell.

Olive Ridley turtle

Average carapacesize:60-76cm/24-30in

Average weight:45-50kg/100-110lb

Where they are found: Tropical regions around the world.

Unique features: Olive green, heart-shaped shell, smaller head and shell to the Kemp’s Ridley species.

Can you tell the difference between a squid and an octopus? Click here to find out: Squid Vs Octopus: What is the difference?

Ethical turtle interactions

It is important to respect all marine life when we enter their environment. Turtles are generally quite relaxed in the presence of humans, but this does not mean that they want to be harassed. Here are some key things to remember when diving or snorkeling with turtles.

  • Do not touch: Just as you would not like to be touched by strangers while you are chilling at home, turtles do not want to be grabbed at. This is true of all animals in nature. Treat them how you would want to be treated and remember that every being deserves to have space and to be relaxed in its environment. Seeing a turtle from a few meters away is a very special thing, and trying to touch it is likely to make it swim away anyway.
  • Do not chase: As mentioned above, would you want to be chased around by a creature 20 times bigger than you? No. Let turtles have their space and if they want to swim away from you, it is important that you let them.
  • Do not swim over the top of them: On average, turtles have to come to the surface for air every 10 to 15 minutes. If you are swimming on the surface directly above them, they might be too scared to come up which could lead to them drowning. Make sure to stay to the side when watching turtles below, and if they want to come up for air, make sure that they have enough space to feel comfortable doing so.
  • Do not feed them:Turtles can feed themselves. Some tour companies will feed turtles in order to keep them around for tourists to interact and get pictures with them. This might make for a nice selfie, but feeding marine life that mess with their natural migration times, diet, feeding habits, and they can become reliant on humans for their food which will be problematic if one day the humans are not there any more. Let wild animals find their own dinner, as nature intended.
  • Do not crowd them: If there are a group of people diving or snorkeling with the turtle, do not try to get close to it all at the same time. Take it in turns to have a look, making sure not to crowd or all gather over the top of the turtle.

Can you tell the difference between the seven turtle species?