Have you been lately fascinated by turtles and their gargantuan lifespans? If you were to chart out all the 356 known species of turtles that co-inhabit in our planet, you would be amazed how some breeds continue living long after their breeders and owners have passed away.
Turtles are reptiles that belong to the order Chelonia in the phylum Chordata. They have a bony or a cartilaginous shell that acts as a shield. Scientists believe that the earliest turtles date back to the middle Jurassic age, and they are more ancient than snakes and crocodiles. Although they trace rich heritage most of these species are facing extinction and are endangered.
Determining the age of the turtle:
For a very long time, scientists believed that they could estimate a turtle’s age by counting the rings on its carapace. A turtle molts its skin annually, but all the skin does not fall off; they form as scutes or rings on top of another. If it gets known how many scutes get produced in a year, it was easy to determine the accurate age.
However, this theory is now debunked with time because the rate of growth is not always uniform, and some scutes fall away from the shell.
Exactly how long can turtles live?
The lifespan of a turtle depends on three basic things:
- The species that it belongs to;
- What it eats and
- Its environment
Turtles have the distinction of being the longest living pets spanning between 40 and 150 years. The best way to determine a turtle’s lifespan is to determine its species type. If you look after them well as pets or if in the natural environment it lives without a predator and with a good source of food, they can live long.
- Red-eared sliders live between 25 and 35 years
- Map Turtles can live between 15 and 25 years
- Wood Turtles can live up to 55 years
- Eastern Box Turtle can live beyond 50 years
- Painted Turtle can easily live between 25 and 30 years
- Russian Tortoise live beyond 40 years
- Greek Tortoise have lived for 100 years and more
- Leopard Tortoise also go beyond 100 years
- Galápagos giant tortoises live a minimum of 150 years. Remember Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda? These thrive only on vegetables and a diet sans fat and cholesterol.
Does size have a bearing on their lifespan?
Apparently, yes! Large turtles live for very long. It is the smaller species that are also very common as pets that live shorter lives, perhaps a couple of decades. You may have read about turtles that live for two centuries or longer. However, the problem with verification of such claims is that the pet owners usually pass away in the lifetime of their turtle pets.
The oldest tortoise that we know of:
An Aldabra giant tortoise named Adwaita is verified as the longest living tortoise. The record has it that it lived for a whopping 255 years before it passed away in an Indian zoo.
Another tortoise lovingly named as Timothy, died at 160 years. Harriet, who was a Galápagos giant tortoise, passed away at the ripe age of 175. Jonathan was a Seychelles giant tortoise who died at 187 years, and Tu’i Malila, radiated tortoise, died at 188 years!
When Harriet passed away in 2006, it was the longest surviving turtle in the world. It weighed 150 kilograms and has found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living turtle. She was in Queensland at the Australia Zoo, where she attracted adults and kids in droves.
How to prolong your pet turtle’s life:
- Feed your turtle a healthy diet; research its natural diet so that you do not go wrong. Most soft-shell turtles eat meat. The hard-shelled ones eat vegetables along with fish and insects.
- You could even opt to feed them with commercial turtle pellets. Compliment with fresh vegetables.
- Make sure it receives the proper amount of Vitamins, especially A and D.
- Give it UV light if you are housing them indoors. Lack of UVA and UVB lights can cause softness in their shells and stagnant growth.
- Of course, it goes without saying that you must make sure you take them for regular vet visits.
- Clean enclosures with a lot of space help relieve stress that can also reduce their life expectancy.
- Use a thermometer and light to maintain an optimal temperature inside its enclosure.
- Give it clean water to drink and to swim and waddle; change water as often as possible
Threats to the turtles:
Some diseases typically threaten specific species alone. A thorough knowledge will help you to determine if they are the right type of pets for you. In case you already have these species for pets, you must keep your eyes and ears open for any symptoms you may notice in them.
- Abscess or pus formation
- Infection in the shells
- Certain types of respiratory diseases
- Parasite attacks
Abscess and respiratory infections are mainly because of vitamin A deficiency. On the other hand, infections result from poor hygiene in the enclosures, dirty water, or a festered injury. Only a fecal investigation by the vet can detect parasites.
Turtles grow very slowly throughout their lifespan. This is probably what never lets them age as much as other pets. They also have a slower metabolism, allowing them to survive without food and water for very long periods. They survive the harshest of living conditions. Their hard shells act as the armor that helps them to fend off the predators.
If we go by statistics Ninety-five percent of turtle hatchlings die within the first year of their life. The mortality rate drops gradually after their first year. Turtles who reach adulthood live reaching their full lifespan. With a longer lifespan, the rate of reproduction also increases. An average female turtle that lives about 40 years can lay up to 50,000 eggs!
Despite this ratio, the species is endangered and right now we can only find 7 different kinds of turtles in the world. Irrespective of long lifespan, due to human activity most turtles lose their life.
So, let’s act responsibly and together make the sea, ocean and other bodies clean and keep them in suitable condition for these species.