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5 Fun Facts About Tortoises

Tortoises are some of the most commonly misunderstood creatures within the natural world. Some species of tortoise are kept as pets, while others can reach impressive sizes. These creatures have hard shells that protect their vital organs from falling debris and predators. 

Tortoises are surprisingly intelligent, which many believe makes this species highly mysterious. These are some interesting facts that you may not have previously known about tortoises. Check out https://petdt.com for more information. 

A Tortoise Is A Turtle

Firstly, a common misconception is that turtles and tortoises are the same species. Tortoises are turtles, but a turtle is not a tortoise. This is because the word ‘turtle’ is actually an umbrella term which describes shelled reptiles. 

Not all members of the turtle species are the same, sea turtles live in the water, but tortoises are land-dwelling creatures. It is easier to tell the two apart by looking at the shape of their shells and their feet. 

Tortoises’ shells are more dome shaped and heavier, while turtle shells tend to be flatter to be more streamlined. Turtles also have webbed feet with long claws or flippers, whereas tortoises have stumpier feet that are similar to elephants’. 

Tortoises Have Endoskeletons And Exoskeletons

There are actually three main parts of a tortoise shell. They have an exoskeleton which consists of the carapace and platron, and the endoskeleton which has all of their internal bones. A tortoise’s endoskeleton is then divided into axial and appendicular. 

These are to protect the organs and allow everything to function properly. This system is inside a tortoise’s shell, and it is unlikely that you will be able to see it at a glance. Inside the shell, there are ribs, collar bones, and a spine to support the tortoise’s body.

The carapace expands to the outer shell, which is why tortoises can feel when something touches their shell or if you pet them by gently stroking their shell. There are nerve endings in a tortoise shell that means they can feel any bump, tear, or stroke. 

A tortoise’s shell is another complex organ in itself. This is because there are scales on the outer shell that are made from keratin. This is a similar material that human fingernails are made out of, and it protects tortoises from infection, injury, and general damage. 

Shell Pattern Can Indicate Origin

A tortoise shell consists of around sixty interconnected bones, and it is an incredibly complex mechanism. The shade of their shell can be used as an indicator of where a tortoise has come from. 

For example, those with lighter shells are likely to have originated in warmer climates. The lightest known shade of tortoise shell has been traced to the southern parts of the Sahara Desert. These are the light tan sulcata, which have a light brown shell, that evolved to help them blend in with their surroundings. 

Tortoises Smell With Their Throats

This is a surprisingly common thing that most reptiles do. Tortoises use their vomeronasal organ (also known as Jacobson’s Organ) on the roof of their mouths to detect smells. They then pump their throats to circulate air through the nose and mouth. 

Tortoises don’t actually use their throats to smell, but it is used more commonly in assistance with the vomeronasal organ than it would be used in other species that aren’t part of the reptile family. 

Tortoises Can’t Swim

Another common misconception is that tortoises are good swimmers. This is because many assume that they can swim just as well as their sea turtle cousins. Tortoises will die if they are put into deep water because they can’t swim. 

However, they are great at holding their breath. This is because they are more tolerant of carbon dioxide than many other animals. Tortoises need to empty their lungs when they go into their shells, which is why you can sometimes hear them exhaling when they are hiding. 


Tortoises are interesting animals because they are commonly believed to possess the same abilities as turtles. Tortoises are classified as turtles by definition, as they are a part of the subspecies under the definition of shelled reptile creatures. 

They are widely misunderstood animals that can make excellent pets when they are provided with the right conditions. Remember that tortoises shells are sensitive to touch, and that they need to be treated with respect. 

Some tortoises have been known to live for more than a century. They are likely to outlive us humans, and we should definitely treat these intelligent creatures kindly. 

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