The Museum needs that all visitors 2 year of age and also older stay a confront covering/mask. Learn an ext in our updated code of Conduct.

You are watching: How old can a tortoise get

The Museum will be closed at 2:00 p.m. Top top Wednesday, 11/24 and all day on Thursday, 11/25.






It transforms out that all tortoises space turtles, but not all turtles room tortoises. Us go to Museum educator Karen to tell us just how to clues the difference and learn about the amazing adaptations that both in this Pulsar podcast lugged to girlfriend by #glossesweb.comatHome. Us ask questions submitted through listeners, therefore if you have actually a question you"d like us to ask an expert, send it to us at sciencequestions

ERIC: tortoise are several of the glossesweb.comt amazing pets in the world. The same have the right to be claimed of tortoises. However what"s the difference? this day on Pulsar we"ll explore that question and other popular queries that we get about our shelled residents. Frequently at the museum, when you check out a tortoise, you additionally see Karen, among our educators, teaching crowds around its adaptations while it move slowly across the stage. So I assumed she would certainly be perfect to answer all of your turtle and also tortoise questions. Karen, many thanks for coming ago on the podcast.

KAREN: Hey Eric, I"m so happy come be right here again.

ERIC: so it"s among those inquiries you hear a lot. We"ve obtained it a lot in ~ the museum. Let"s just start v it. What is the difference in between a turtle and also a tortoise?

KAREN: That"s a concern we acquire asked a lot, whether it"s in few of our livestreams we"ve to be doing end the previous year, even if it is it"s at the museum, or even when we"re out visiting institutions with our live pet collection, people constantly want to know what is the difference in between a turtle and a tortoise. Are they the same, room they different? and I"m walking to start by saying something that could sound confusing. Every tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises. Follow me the exact same lines is all toads are frogs, but not every frogs space toads. And also for the non-biologists listening in today, every squares are rectangles. Not all rectangles room squares.

ERIC: therefore a turtle is a type of turtle.

KAREN: Exactly. So it"s sort of favor a subgroup. For this reason if you were looking in ~ something that you thought: is it a turtle is the a tortoise? you could call it a turtle and also be correct. If you want to it is in a little bit an ext specific, girlfriend could speak to it a tortoise. And also there room some things that you have the right to look for the make tortoises just a tiny bit various than turtles, therefore why they"re a subgroup. And some that those are: they have tendency to be greatly terrestrial, meaning tortoises pardon dryer temperatures, friend don"t uncover them life in ponds, and also rivers and also oceans. They space not favor a snapping turtle. They"re not choose a sea turtle. You uncover them walking about on the ground. Castle also. Because of that, have some features around their human body can assist you identify it. They have what we call elephantine feet. If friend can snapshot what the foot of one elephant watch like, and also just type of shrink that down and stick the on a tortoise. Kind of squared off and also clunky. Pretty flat claws or flat nails, they"re not very sharp and pointy, since they often spend a many time digging. So they use those flat claws and those clunky feet to gain over ground. Another distinguishing characteristic that can make that a turtle is normally they have greater domed shells. Therefore if friend can snapshot like a sea turtle in her head, they have actually pretty flat, systematized shells. Really an excellent for going through the water in the ocean. Helps them gain up the speed when they"re swimming. Tortoise on the other hand, life in drier environments, has that high domed shell and that help them store up extra water. So also if they"re in one area choose desert the doesn"t gain a many water, they deserve to store the up inside of your bodies. But those are sort of the easiest means to call the difference. I will certainly admit there room some tricky ones. Together always, there are exceptions.

ERIC: always exceptions to every nice, an easy rule. Every time we try to categorize anything, there"s always something that doesn"t fit.

KAREN: Yeah, we have actually a varieties that stays at the museum dubbed a box turtle. It"s local below to the northeast. Actually, pretty lot down the whole East shore of the unified States. It has a high domed shell, it actually closes up favor a box. Therefore the name box turtle. They have actually pretty clunky feet. Yet they"re dubbed box turtles, no tortoises. But if you carry out see one of those out there in the wild, again, speak to it a turtle. It type of covers the entirety overarching group.

ERIC: for this reason basically, if you watch a turtle and also you desire to understand if it"s a tortoise, watch to watch if it has that domed shell, look at to check out if that has actually those feet like an elephant, and look where it is. Since if the seems like it glossesweb.comtly lives top top the land, it can be a tortoise.

KAREN: Exactly.

ERIC: What kind of turtles and tortoises do we have at the museum? i m sorry ones do you job-related with?

KAREN: for this reason we have actually a grasp of different species. We have several different types of turtles. Those crate turtles that i mentioned, as well as wood turtles, which are one more local brand-new England if you"re listening here in brand-new England or local here. Wood turtles, next note, are really cool due to the fact that they run for their dinner. Therefore they sort of execute a little dance on the ground, and also that provides the worms under the dust think the it"s raining. For this reason they come approximately the surface ar so they don"t drown. And then lock get consumed by the lumber turtle.

ERIC: That"s so cool. I didn"t know that.

KAREN: It"s among my favourite stories. Ns remember years back when ns was working at an environmental summer camp. Us actually obtained to view the educational wood turtle. We headed the end on the woodland floor and it began doing its little thumping, stamping that feet. It was among the cutest things I"ve ever before seen. And also then we do have two varieties of tortoise. We have the desert tortoise, i m sorry is aboriginal to Mojave and Sonoran Desert, so sort of Southwest joined States into northern parts of Mexico. And also we additionally have two red footed tortoises the are native to the rainforests of southern America. So they"re also ground dwelling, yet in really humid environments, as opposed to desert turtle in very dry environments.

ERIC: so they live in a lot of of different environments. That"s sort of a concern we get no matter what animal we have, whereby does it live? We likewise get asked, what carry out they eat? for this reason specifically, tortoises, one of maybe the turtle you work with? What sort of foodstuffs does that eat?

KAREN: so the varieties that I work-related with many in the turtle team at the museum is that desert tortoise. We have one individual. Her surname is Sonora. Desert tortoises just eat plants. For this reason in the desert whereby they natively live would eat things choose grasses and wild flowers once they bloomed. A pair times a year when the rains come in the cacti create their flowers and fruit - they would certainly munch down on that. Here at the museum she it s okay fed a salad. For this reason it"s a mix of greens, kale, lettuce, dandelion greens. She likewise gets rotation the different species of fruits. I"ve watched things prefer cantaloupe, I have actually seen carrots, tomatoes ns think get mixed in. What ns really acquire jealous is when she has a quite salad consisting of strawberries once they"re in the offseason, and also they are difficult to find. So we treat our tortoises an extremely well at the Museum that Science. Currently other species of tortoise, they"re no all herbivores. Therefore our various other tortoises, the red footed tortoises, are what we call opportunistic omnivores. Now an omnivore is an pet that have the right to handle eat both plants and meat. Our tortoises room a kind of opportunistic omnivore which means that if they stumble throughout a worm or stumble right into an ant, they could eat it. They"re not searching these other animals, so they largely feed top top plants. Now, something like a snapping tortoise is a true omnivore, castle eat anything castle come across. So they"ll eat plant matter. They"ll catch a mouse, they"ll record a fish or a shrimp in the water. They likewise are really well recognized for eating carrion, i m sorry is dead, disk meat. So snapping turtles actually assist clean up the atglossesweb.comphere of pets that have passed along.

ERIC: Yeah, and also some the the tortoises you"d think, girlfriend know, the stereotype is the tortoise and the hare. And also you would certainly think that putting that salad in prior of the tortoise you work with, it would eat it yes, really slowly. And also it really doesn"t, it simply kind that bites away at that salad until it"s gone.

KAREN: Yeah, they space hungry critters.

ERIC: for this reason I got this idea because that the podcast the various other day, as soon as I was watching you perform your turtle present for a school group and also you to be talking about their adaptations. So can you speak a tiny bit around what those are and also specifically, which people tortoises have actually that aid them survive.

KAREN: when we think about adaptations, it"s something about an animal"s body or something that animal does the helps that to survive in its particular habitat. For instance, let"s take our desert tortoise, together an example. Deserts room pretty harsh environments, particularly Mojave and Sonoran. Very, an extremely hot during the day, believe it or no very, really cold or can be very, really cold in ~ night. Really dry, no a the majority of food or water around. So they have very devoted things about the structure of their body, and also their behaviors to aid them to best survive in those harsh environments. I mentioned one of the things about a tortoise is the capacity to store water. Desert tortoises, at various times, alglossesweb.comt half their human body weight can be save on computer water, basically conserving that up for a non-rainy day. An additional really great adaptation is the shell. For this reason turtles all have shells, glossesweb.comt of them are hard shells, plenty of of them have the right to tuck all your soft body parts inside of the shell, store them safe from animals that could want to eat them. Imagine if you had actually like a yes, really hard, dog crate, you can sort the hide inside if some large predator to be trying come munch down on you, and would stay pretty safe.

ERIC: such a great adaptation to have that as component of her body the you just have actually like armor or a ar to hide the you just tuck her arms in and you"re safe.

KAREN: Yeah, that"s what ns love about our little box turtles the we have at the museum. They can literally tuck in all 4 legs, their tail, their head, and they have actually a flap in the front that is additionally hardened shell that close the door up over their face. So perhaps they have actually a tip of their tail sticking out the back. And that"s it. So that"s a really too much adaptation as soon as it comes to the shell, which is ns think, supervisor awesome and really fun to see. As long as we"re talking around the desert tortoise, specifically, among their behavior adaptations is that they spend many of your life in an underground burrow. So also though they have that covering that go still aid protect them from predators. But it additionally helps with those excessive temperature ferris wheel in the expectancy of 24 hours in the desert. If you"ve ever before been, say, in her kitchen ~ above a hot summer day, and it"s 90 degrees Fahrenheit, girlfriend walk indigenous those cellar stairs, perhaps it"s only 60 degrees in her basement, so it"s a lot of cooler. Same thing v an secret burrow. So during the hot days, it"s going to store that tortoise in ~ a much more comfortable temperature. And then if it it s okay super cold increase on the surface ar at night, the tortoise is much better insulated and keeps your body warm. Now of course, this is at sight important due to the fact that as a tortoise, they space ectothermic. That"s a properties of reptiles. That just means that they don"t control their own body temperature.

ERIC: for this reason they have this behavior adaptation of discovering when to go underground, if it"s too hot or too cold, and also underground is simply always much more comfortable.

KAREN: Yeah, it"s certainly an instinct fairly than prefer a conscious "This is what I"m walking to execute today". However yeah, it definitely helps them make it through in those excessive environments.

ERIC: Now, pretty regularly when we"re talking around tortoises, we gain asked about their lifespan because they are famously long-lived. So just how long deserve to they live?

KAREN: Well, the really counts on the species that you"re talk about. Yet I"ve talked a lot around desert tortoises and I"m really well in song with the desert tortoise we have actually at the museum. They can live 80 maybe also 100 years. Periodically it"s hard to monitor them due to the fact that they will outlive your caretakers or their researchers. Several of the longest-lived tortoises that we have actually heard of room the gigantic tortoises like the Galapagos huge tortoise. It stays on the Galapagos Islands, or the Aldabra tortoises that space from the Seychelles atoll, simply off the coastline of Africa. Now currently living, the oldest tortoise is a tortoise called Jonathan, which ns love that it"s just sort the a straightforward human name.

ERIC: ns love when pets have world names.

KAREN: Yeah. Jonathan was hatched in 1832. So together of best now, he"s at least 188. Ns don"t know precisely if he"s had a date of birth yet this year. That is the current living, oldest tortoise. Now for Galapagos tortoises, they space also very long-lived. It was simply recently that we were still hearing around a tortoise that Charles Darwin himself had accumulated from the Galapagos and was still living. I think that has since passed away. They average much more like 150. Yet there is one Aldabra turtle that us think lived upwards that 250 years. Now, again, these are simply records. And also it"s hard to tell precisely how old a turtle or a tortoise is, uneven somebody significant down precisely when the hatched out of that is egg. The oldest Galapagos tortoise to be over 175 years, she died earlier in 2006. And she"s glossesweb.comt likely one the the ones that Charles Darwin saw. Now, Galapagos tortoises, I"m gonna do one more side note, are really cool in the evolutionary story. So Charles Darwin, evolution biologist, that taught united state a lot around finches on all the various Galapagos Islands, as well as these tortoises. And they had actually very particular adaptations because that the type of environment on all these different islands. If it was an island that tended to have actually a little bit higher brush, the tortoises" covering would tilt forward so lock can get your head a tiny bit taller. If it had actually slightly, perhaps more, hardened vegetation, they would have a slightly stronger beak, since turtles don"t have teeth, they have actually a more powerful beak. For this reason if you"re curious, I very encourage you to go review up on the Galapagos tortoises since it is fascinating, to kind of see advancement in action.

ERIC: Yeah, those islands, tortoises and finches, and also really every those pets teach us so much about how life adapts to different conditions. Because sometimes the problems are just a small bit different. Sometimes they"re really different from island to island, and you have the right to really see how the tortoises or the birds have just changed over time to better fit your environment, to better survive there.

KAREN: and one of the reasons why tortoises are type of world-spread, ns didn"t realize they don"t live in Australia natively, or no native Australian tortoises. Or in Antarctica, that"s due to the fact that it"s really cold. But they are on so many islands across the world. And this is since they"re really good at floating. So over the food of girlfriend know, hundreds of thousands, countless years of advancement of life here on earth. Tortoises make their method to various islands because they just deserve to flip over and also float top top their covering which simply boggles mine mind, but it"s therefore cool because they get to these different islands and then end time, evolve very certain adaptation because that that particular island environment. For this reason it"s yes, really cool to study up on. Clear it"s something that i am passionate about.

ERIC: Alright Karen, say thanks to you so much for coming on to the podcast and also telling united state all about turtles and tortoises.

KAREN: Thanks, Eric, for having actually me. It to be a satisfied to acquire to talk about one of my favorite teams of animals.

See more: How To Draw A Rainbow For Kids, Cartoon Rainbow Step By Step Drawing Lesson

ERIC: You have the right to see ours tortoises in human at the Museum of scientific research by visiting the Live animal Care center viewing home window or by capturing a Live pet Presentation. Check because that our day-to-day schedule. Until next time, store asking questions.