Mom, look!  My new friend has such bright colors!Purple shell is okay for my new friend because he doesn't need UVB, unlike me!New friend, your head is very yellow......yellow like dandelions......and your shell is flower-colored, too...


International Turtle and Tortoise Week, Day 3
(Days 1 and 2)

A few years ago, I made a colorful new eraser turtle friend.  His shell was so purple I couldn’t resist booping it over and over!  💛💜🐢👀

Sometimes we hear about people painting real turtles’ shells bright colors like purple.  🚫  Please do not be one of those people!! 🚫 Putting anything on a turtle or tortoise’s shell interferes with UVB light absorption.  We turtles and tortoises need a lot of UVB for vitamin D to maintain healthy bones.  (Like how humans need vitamin D for healthy bones, but we need a lot more for our big shells!)  Paint or anything else on our shells ultimately weakens all our bones and makes us very sick!  (Not to mention paint chemicals can be toxic!)  😢

🚫  Relatedly, please do not ever drill or mark up a turtle or tortoise’s shell!  We can feel pain through our shells!  (For example, I am super ticklish around the back end of my shell.  If anything touches the back of my shell, I immediately jump like a rabbit and run away as fast as my leggies can go!)  😢

🌟  To sum up:  Leave turtle and tortoise shells the way they naturally are!  If you want to paint or scratch up a shell, stick to a non-living turtle like my eraser friend!

As we celebrate Earth Day AND International Turtle and Tortoise Week, our friend Kirby has some very important info about turtle and tortoise shells!

One of the greatest myths about turtles and tortoises is that they have no feeling in their shell.  THAT IS FALSE! We not only have many nerve endings in our shell, we have pores through which we absorb important vitamins from the sun! Our shells and spine are fused together! They are one! we can’t take our shells off. Silly humans!  Listen to Kirby! Be gentle and keep us chemical free! 

It makes perfect sense that #EarthDay overlaps with International Turtle and Tortoise week! One part of caring for our earth is caring for its most precious creatures, Obviously We turtles and torts are one of them!

Its Earth Day AND international turtle and tortoise week!  No one knows how to appreciate the earth like our shell friends. They have been doing it for thousands of years! Lets do our part to keep it safe for their sake! 

Happy Earth Day to all our shell friends and their humans! 


Most of all, don’t assume people you look up to behaviors as always correct.

This is an incredibly important post that I hope everyone will take the time to read and share.

As International turtle and tortoise week comes to a close, this is one point that is most important to remember, take the Wilson turtle (and tortoise) promise:   

Keep wildlife wild.


This has many forms.

1. When helping a turtle or tortoise cross the road, remember to move them to safety in the direction the were going. Do not take them away from their location because you intend to bring them to a place they find “safer”.

Our shell friends are smart and that is their home.  Don’t remove them, simply help them along and allow them to continue on their way.

2. Also, and I need to stress this next point the most as I have been irresponsible in vetting my posts lately, DO NOT TAKE ANY ANIMAL YOU FIND IN THE WILD INTO YOUR HOME TO MAKE YOUR PET.

Our shell friends have lived centuries in places we now call home. Their existence is dependent on the lives of those that came before and every animal taken from the wild = generations of future turtles and tortoises that will never be.

If you are graced with the presence of an incredible shell friend, keep a respectful distance, don’t stress the animal, and enjoy the view. heck, tell your shell friend how much you look forward to the turtpocalypse. That’s always appreciated!

And of course, if you’d plan to adopt a turtle or tortoise please do your research ahead of time. Be sure to find a reputable breeder or contact a rehab facility that has animals up for adoption. The illegal wildlife trade is real and it’s one of the greatest threats to turtles and tortoises worldwide.

So on that note, let’s all take a pledge to Keep wildlife wild! Leave turtles and tortoises in the wild alone to live their lives amongst us for generations to come! 

See how Sir Richard Branson is using his private island to save tortoises! from Turtle Conservancy on Vimeo.

Most of us can’t quite afford to buy land to protect our shell friends, but there are lots of other ways we can be a part of saving the many at-risk turtle and tortoise populations!!

  • Donate what you can to organizations working to save turtles and tortoises (like the turtle conservancy!)
  • Find and support your local rescue and rehab organizations
  • Find alternatives to plastic straws and other plastics that pollute our oceans and injure our shell friends.
  • Volunteer to clean up beaches, Sanctuaries, and areas our shell friends live.
  • Spread the word about the issues facing turtles and tortoises and why it’s so important we do our part to keep them around for generations to come!

What's this new object in my kingdom?Mom, this better not be real tortoiseshell!I confirm this is faux tortoiseshell!Now for the next question......can I nom this?


International Turtle and Tortoise Week 2018, Day 4
(Days 1, 2, and 3)

Did you know you could be directly contributing to killing turtles with your everyday accessories?  Real “tortoiseshell” may look beautiful, but it comes from the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle.  We talked about this last year as well, but we’ve seen a mini surge in interest for tortoiseshell jewelry this year.  Always make sure you are buying only faux tortoiseshell!  Faux tortoiseshell can be just as beautiful, and you won’t be hurting any turtles!

More broadly, you can make a difference simply by taking a second to think about the impact of your everyday purchases on us shells.  Minimize using plastic straws that instantly become plastic pollution (and can get lodged in sea turtles’ nostrilsshorter version here).  Spend the extra minute to find biodegradable alternatives and environment-friendly chemicals.  If we all spend that extra minute, we could save a lot of turtles and tortoises out in the wild!

Wise words, Kirby! No piece of jewelry is worth the life of the incredible, but critically endangered, hawksbill sea turtle! This is particularly important for anyone traveling to the Caribbean and Latin America where the sale of these items is far more common despite laws against it. @shadowdunsparce writes more about it here (and the drawing of a hawksbill is incredible!)

Here’s a guide to identifying real turtlesshell jewelry brought to you by the  TOO RARE TO WEAR campaign!

Check out their site for more information and  SIGN THE PLEDGE TO SAY NO TURTLESHELL JEWELRY

And Kirby is right! we can all do our part by minimizing the use of plastic straws, bags, and soda can rings! There are many alternatives out there these days, and taking the extra time to look to save our shell friends in the sea… least we can do if you ask me! 

Generally underserved by conservation efforts, endangered reptiles finally included in EDGE action alerts. 

This glorious punk rock turtle is the Mary River Turtle and it has been added to the Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered  (EDGE) species list this year. That’s right, it’s evolutionarily distinct from similar species ( its the only member of its genus) and it’s at risk of extinction. Despite being on this earth for 40 million years, the mary river turtle has been no match for human intervention in its environment. Its habitat, in Queensland Australia, is now being severely disrupted by the building of a dam.

Thankfully, its fine sense of style and its addition to the EDGE listing has gained attention from conservationists and work is being done to prevent IT’S demise but this guy wasn’t the only shell to be added to the list.

From the pig-nose turtle to the Radiated Tortoise, turtles, tortoises, and terrapins make up a HUGE portion of EDGE’s reptilian additions.  Lack of long-term data and research on reptiles and general lack of public attention has left them out of EDGE’s protection and lacking strong conservation efforts. In fact, this is the FIRST YEAR reptiles have been added.  Reptiles have been underserved by conservation efforts in general, according to Rikki Gumbs, co-ordinator of Edge reptiles, partly because they aren’t cuddly or fluffy and “ freak people out”.


“Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals. However, the Edge reptiles list highlights just how unique, vulnerable and amazing these creatures really are.”

“Just as with tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals. Many Edge reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages, whose branches of the tree of life stretch back to the age of the dinosaurs. If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth.”

An important point for day 3 for International Turtle and Tortoise Week and we couldn’t agree more. Heres hoping things start changing for the better for our threatened and endangered shell friends and all their reptilian friends as well. 

Take a look at the EDGE Top 100 Reptiles and learn more about these incredible at-risk animals and how we can do our part to keep them around for generations to come: Here




hey everybody, welcome to another amazing installment of Weird Biology and WOWIE ZOWIE do I have an odd one for you today!

this bizarre creature is among the largest of its kind, but bears hardly any resemblance to the rest of the family. (we’re sure this gets mentioned a lot at its family holiday dinners.) it has a real mouthful of a name and the spirit of a cranky old man about to whack you in the shin with his walker.

give it up for…

I’ll just give this image a moment to sink in.

(it’s also called the small-headed softshell turtle, because scientists are a bunch of mean highschoolers.)

seriously, I don’t even really know where to START with this guy. unlike the humble regular earnest hardworking turtle, the Narrow-Headed Softshell Turtle does not have an armored shell (hence the name). instead, its shell is soft and leathery. like a pair of well-broken-in Timblerland boots, except that the boots will not bite you.

oh, he is absolutely going to bite you.

this soft pliable shell cuts down on the turtle’s weight by a huge amount, making them far more agile in the water and faster on land than a conventional everyman turtle (this should make you worried). the flattened shape of the shell also makes them more hydrodynamic, making them faster in the water than you can possibly imagine.

for a turtle, I mean.

this is an important advantage, because the Narrow-Headed Softshell Turtle spends most of its life in the water. they live on the bottoms of sandy rivers across a wide area of central and southern Asia, where they reach sizes best described as fucking huge. adults can reach up to 45 inches (shell length only) and 260 fucking pounds (whole damn turtle). 

their total body length can be over a meter. fuuuuuuuuck. a turtle that size needs a LOT of shoulder room, especially because the adults are a bunch of cranky ginormous chompmonsters. (can’t really blame them, I guess. I’d be irritable too, if my head was that small)

now imagine a cheesed-off 260-pound turtle swimming towards you at Mach Fuck.

Narrow-Headed Softshell Turtles are aggressive, and will attack anything they consider a threat (including humans, fishing boats, and probably also rocks). their primary attack is to just bite the fuck out of whatever is annoying them , but their secondary move is the one to watch out for.

when terminally pissed off, the turtle extends the full length of its surprisingly long neck and delivers a literal cannon headbutt. this attack has been documented as being powerful enough to damage fishing boats. imagine what it would do to your face. (nothing good. if you see this turtle winding up, run.)

the true face of terror.

when left to its own devices, the Narrow-Headed Softshell Turtle spends its time buried at the bottom of the river, waiting for its next meal to happen by. (which it can do almost indefinitely because softshell turtles can breathe underwater, holy shit.) once another animal smaller than itself passes overhead the turtle strikes, mortally wounding the prey with its nightmare bite (no joke, the first strike usually kills instantly. this is a creature capable of taking a chunk out of your leg). it’s a pretty solid gig, if you’re a lonely grumpmonster.

beats pumping gas all day, I guess.

in fact, the Narrow-Headed Softshell Turtle spends so much of its life underwater that we… don’t really know all that much about it. apart from the biting thing, I mean. the turtle has been very clear on that.

we’re not even entirely sure how long they live, though captive turtles have made it more than 70 grouchy, grouchy years. locals in India claim that in the wild individual river bastards can stick around for up to 140 years, which I am inclined to believe because these people fish for a living and they have to remember where the boat-sinking nightmare turtles live.

it’s only common sense.

despite its wide range, the Narrow-Headed Softshell Turtle is now considered Endangered. (note: this is not allowed. what would we replace them with? large cantankerous frogs? big passive-aggressive catfish? I DON’T THINK SO.)

this is primarily due to human hunting, as the turtles are consumed in huge number throughout Asia. (humans will eat anything.)

the government of India has now moved to protect the turtle, restricting trade and moving to conserve the species. we dearly hope this will be enough to save the grumpy frumpy river grandpa.

please stay with us forever, Narrow-Headed Softshell Turtle. we love your tiny tiny face and terrible attitude.

thanks for reading! you can find the rest of the Weird Biology series here.

if you enjoy my work, maybe buy me a coffee to support Weird Biology.


img1- Wikimedia Commons img2-  img4- Joel Sartore  img5- Turtle Survival Alliance   img6- Turtle Survival Alliance img7- The TeCake img8- Joel Sartore

Happy International Turtle and Tortoise Week, Narrow-Headed Softshell friend!  We celebrate you and hope you’re around for many more generations of shell lovers to admire! 


Reni with Frankie the tortoise 🐢 #littlemisshaun #frankie #tortoise #internationalturtleandtortoiseweek #animals #reptiles #wildlife

Thanks to #ITTW & @Zoomed , lots of amazing shells like Frankie have been out on the town educating children and adults about the awesomeness of turtles and tortoises! Good work Frankie! I’m pretty sure Reni is ready to spread the word about the importance of keeping turtles and tortoises around for generations to come!!