Turtles are one of the most diverse animal species in the world. They live in a variety of different habitats. Where can you find turtles? Read this!
Although many people like to lump turtles into one category; that of four-legged shelled creatures that love to retract their heads, they are in fact a very diverse bunch.
Chelonians, a better catchall phrase to use to describe these animals, can refer to three distinct types; turtles (primarily water-dwelling), tortoises (mostly land-dwelling) and terrapins (split time between land and water).
To make things easier, however, let’s start off with tortoises and their habitats.
Tortoises have been roaming our Earth for a very long time, much longer than the dinosaurs, believe it or not.
And you don’t last that long in nature without having a few special abilities and tricks up your sleeve. For example, their knobbed legs. Their legs allow them to dig into the earth to burrow and get away from the scorching sun.
These land-dwelling animals can be found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.
There are dozens of varieties of tortoise in the world today, and some of them are used as pets.
When it comes to the distribution of tortoises, they can be found in hot desert climates, such as the desert tortoise, to the huge Galapagos turtle that resides in the famous Galapagos Islands, off the coast of South America.
Tortoises can often grow to immense sizes on islands as many times these islands do not have any natural predators that threaten them.
That said, one of the biggest threats for large tortoises today are humans. This is because humans hunt the creatures for food and medicine. Unfortunately, we also often destroy their natural environment through pollution, litter, and waste.
Sea Turtle Habitats
Much like their land-dwelling cousins, sea turtles can be found in nearly every ocean in the world.
If you were to look at a map of our earth, specifically the equator, and then take place your finger and thumb on either side of that equator by a few inches (past the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer), and then follow that band all around the map, you would have a rough estimate of the natural habitat of most sea-turtles.
Most types of sea turtles enjoy the balmy, warmer waters around the equator.
The leatherback turtle, however, will often venture into much colder waters in search of food, as far north as Alaska and as far south as Chile.
Some of the more famous species are:
- Green sea turtles.
If you ever happen to stroll along a beach in some exotic location and run into a sea turtle, it will in almost every instance be a female.
Only the females come out of the ocean, and they do so in order to lay their eggs. They will come ashore, dig a hole, lay their eggs and then leave again.
As most sea turtles prefer warmer waters, they will often times migrate and venture for hundreds of miles when the temperature drops or to search for food.
In fact, the loggerhead turtle will sometimes migrate to Baja California, in Mexico, all the way from Japan, just for food.
Freshwater Turtle and Terrapin Habitats
The most abundant of any type of chelonian (at more than 300 different types) are freshwater turtles. These animals can be found in a bunch of diverse environments.
Some of the more common species are:
- Pond turtles
- Musk turtles
- Snapping turtles
- Box turtles
- Painted turtles
- Soft-shelled terrapins
- Diamondback terrapins
Freshwater turtles are usually found in forests, bogs, marshes, swamps, wetlands, ponds and rivers. If you were to walk outside long enough in North America, Europe or Asia you would probably eventually come across them.
These animals spend half to the majority of their lives in water. They usually only come out to bask in the sunlight or to catch and feed prey.
The Red-Eared Slider, on the other hand, is the most common pet turtle in the world. These creatures are native to the southern United States and parts of Mexico.
They can be found in areas with warmer, calmer water such as ponds and lakes with rocks and other types of natural objects that would allow them to get out of the water to bask in the sun.
The Brazilian snake-necked turtle, however, can be found in southeastern Brazil. This snake-necked turtles prefer streams and rivers with sandy bottoms above an elevation of 600 m (2,000 ft).
As long as you aren’t walking around aimlessly in the Antarctic, chances are you can probably find some type of turtle in whatever region and environment you currently live in, even if the climate is rather cold.
Take the Russian tortoise for example. These turtles can be found in the cold, harsh, mountainous areas in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan.
What Do You Do If You Find A Turtle In Your Backyard?
Let’s say you are strolling around your backyard one day (honestly this could be anywhere though) and you spot a wild turtle just hanging out.
What should you do?
The best thing you can do if you find a turtle in your backyard (or elsewhere) is to leave it be. If you feel the turtle will have difficulty exiting your yard or is in danger from pets or a nearby road, gently pick it up with a pair of gloves and set it back on its way.
It’s probably not a good idea to keep a wild turtle captive. I hold this view for a few reasons:
- More than likely this turtle has been living outside in the wild its entire life and is accustomed to this. Confining it to a much smaller habitat and changing its diet would surely result in undue stress. Moreover, it is probably not used to being around humans or frequent contact with humans.
- The turtle has a much higher likelihood of having various diseases and parasites compared to a store-bought turtle. It could have anything, and if you introduce it into your home, you may be putting your children or other family members at risk of catching something.
So, where can you find turtles? The answer is, nearly everywhere!