Tortoises are one of the most fascinating creatures of nature. As a kid, I got fascinated by Master Oogway, a tortoise from the movie Kung Fu Panda and the Ninja Turtles. Ever since then, I have seen my younger brothers, sisters and cousins be enthralled by the same creature; both in real life and the media.
I am sure your little one too has come across these iconic characters and wants to learn more about them. So sit tight and read on to learn some amazing tortoise facts for kids.
What’s the Difference between Turtles and Tortoises?
Something that always confused me as a kid was the difference between a tortoise and a turtle. These words are often used interchangeably but they are two separate creatures. To put it simply, tortoises spend most of their time on the land while the turtles spend most of their time in the water. Turtles mostly come onto the land only to lay their eggs.
To go a little deeper, the shell structures of tortoises and turtles are also different. The tortoises have rounded and doom shaped shells which suit their land habitat whereas the turtles have thinner shells which are much more suited to the water habitat. Lastly, tortoises are usually herbivores while turtles are omnivores.
Now that the confusion is out of the way, let us get to the 11 amazing tortoises facts for kids as suggested in the title.
11 Interesting & Fun Facts about Tortoise for Kids That will Blow their Minds
While we all know a lot of traits about the slowest animal on the earth, tortoises do have certain characteristics that are bound to surprise you and your kid. Let’s get started with those-
1. Tortoises smell with their throats
One of the most amazing tortoise facts for kids as well as adults is that they can smell with the help of their throats. They use the roof of their mouths to smell. They can do this because they have a vomeronasal organ in that area. This organ allows them to smell and is also known as the Jacobson’s Organ.
2. It is difficult to understand their gender
Unlike most other animals, it is not really easy to recognise whether a tortoise is a male or a female one. Additionally, one can only do this when the tortoise in question is of a particular age (which varies based on the breed).
Usually, a male tortoise will be larger than a female one. However, by looking carefully at their bottom shells, one can understand the gender as it is flatter for a female and rounder for a male.
3. They can live for a long time
Tell your kids that tortoises can be a hundred years old and look at the surprise in their eyes. Yes, it is true; tortoises can live for a really long time. It won’t be a surprise to find tortoises that have been around for over a hundred years. This fact of the tortoises deserves to be listed in an article talking about the ‘Amazing Tortoise Facts for Kids’.
4. Their shells can tell where they are from
Another amazing tortoise fact is that one can understand where the tortoise is from by taking a look at the shell. Usually, the lighter the color of the shell, the warmer area the tortoise is from. The tortoises from the Sahara Desert of Africa have shells which are extremely light in color.
Also Read: 11 Fun Facts about Desert Tortoises for Kids
5. Tortoises can hold their breath for a significant amount of time
As already told before, tortoises don’t spend time in the water but turtles do. Tortoises can’t even swim. However, what is interesting here is the fact that even though they cannot swim, tortoises can hold their breath underwater for a long time to escape predators.
6. Tortoises can be found almost everywhere
Tortoises are one of those creatures who are found anywhere and everywhere in the world. They can live in any place across the globe where the climate is warm enough to let them breed.
If there is a place where they cannot be found, that would be Antarctica as the temperature there is extremely cold.
7. Tortoises have been around since ancient times
While it is known to us the animals and birds now have evolved from their ancestors for millions of years, what is surprising about the tortoises is that they have been around since ancient times.
Tortoises came way before the reptiles, lizards and mammals did and this is the reason why this point is taking a place in an article on ‘Amazing Tortoises Facts for Kids’.
8. A group of tortoises is called a Creep
As per our education system, we were always made to learn about group verbs for anything and everything. While tortoises are usually solitary creatures and it is rare to see a group of them, the rules of English Grammar have found a name for such a group- Creep.
9. The ancient Roman military was heavily inspired by tortoises
You might be wondering on is it possible that the world’s slowest animal inspired one of the most efficient ancient militaries in the world, the Greeks.
As it turns out, the ancient Greek military had a certain formation called the testudo; which in Latin means tortoise. They would cover themselves from all sides and above the heads with shields to form the tortoise like shell to protect themselves from attacks.
10. They have both an exoskeleton and an endoskeleton
As one might understand from the names, an exoskeleton means a skeleton on the outside. Like that of a snail. An endoskeleton means a skeleton on the inside, like that of us, humans. What is interesting about a tortoise is that it has both an endoskeleton as well as an exoskeleton!
11. Their shells are sensitive to touch
A lot of us, including me, when I was younger, thought that the shells of the tortoises don’t have any nerve endings and hence they cannot feel anything when you touch them. That is, however, far from the truth. The shells of the tortoises are very sensitive and they can feel touch or injury if that takes place.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What do tortoises eat?
Tortoises are herbivores and can eat leaves, fruits and vegetables.
Q. Do tortoises need to eat every day?
Tortoises generally eat everyday but they can skip a day or two. During colder months, they don’t eat as frequently.
Q. Can tortoises swim?
No, tortoises cannot swim but turtles can.
Q. Do tortoises poop a lot?
Tortoises poop every two to three days. Generally, tortoises poop less than other animals.
Q. Where do tortoises live?
Tortoises generally live on land and that can be anywhere from mountains, grasslands, deserts or plains.
Q. Do baby tortoises bite?
Baby tortoises can bite but the severity of the same will depend on their sizes. Although, by nature, tortoises tend to be calm creatures.
Q. Do tortoises sleep a lot?
Yes, tortoises do sleep a lot and can sleep for almost a period of 12 hours. Baby tortoises sleep longer.
Q. Can tortoises hear music?
No, tortoises cannot understand music but they can hear and feel the vibrations of the sound.
Q. Can tortoises see in the dark?
Yes, tortoises can see in the dark. They have night vision.
Q. Can tortoises learn their names?
Yes, tortoises are very intelligent and smart and can learn their own names.
Q. Do tortoises sleep in water?
No, tortoises cannot sleep in water and they cannot swim as well.
Q. Do tortoises get bored?
Yes, tortoises do get bored as they love to explore and are inquisitive creatures.
Q. What colors do tortoises see?
Tortoises can see all sorts of colors from ultraviolet to red, covering the full spectrum.
Q. Do tortoises itch?
Yes, sometimes, like any other creature, tortoises do get an itch.
Q. Do tortoises change skin?
Just like snakes, tortoises too, shed their skin and shell as they grow older.
That was it folks. You have reached the end of the article ‘11 Amazing Tortoise Facts for Kids’. Although the title says ‘kids’, I am sure the adults too have learned a thing or two about the slowest animal in the world and enjoyed reading this as much as I did while writing them.