Information on Turtles

Turtles belong to the order (order is a level of classification used by scientists) Testudines (sometimes called Chelonia), they are in the class Repitlia, because they are reptiles. Reptiles are cold-blooded. This means that the body temperature depends on the temperature of their environment. There are about 250 species of turtles, (which is quite a lot, considering that there are only about 3 million species total). These species are divided into about 12 families.

Turtles can be found on every continent, except Antarctica. They can live in a variety of habithats. Some turtles live in the sea, while others live in ponds, rivers or even in the hottest deserts in the world.

Turtles have exoskeletons. An exoskeleton is like the bone structure, only it is on the outside of the body. The exoskeleton is also known as a shell. The shell is fused to the bacbone and to the ribs, and are covered with large plates, or skutes. The top of the shell is domed and known as the carapace. The bottom part is flat, called the plastron.

The shell of a turtle can be either hard or soft. Some are large and some are very small. Snapping turtles have small shells and sea turtles have very soft shells. In fact, most turtles that live in the water have soft shells; some are even called " leatherback" for their sof shells. Turtles that live on the land and tortoises usually have very hard shells. Turtles with soft shells lack horny plates, but do have leathery skin.

Turtles are over 200 million years old. This means that turtles were around when the dinosaurs were! Fossils have been found to prove this.

All turtles are tootheless, but have a sharp-edged beak so that they can eat. This works ver well, especially for the Alliga tor Snapping Turtle, who can bite off a human finger in a single bite.
Turtles also have a good sense of eyesight and smell. They can be sexually distinguished by their plastrons. Males have concave plastrons, while females have flat ones.