Hiya, guys. I don’t know if any of you know, but I have a science blog where I sometimes post pictures of my fool turtle, Bio. If you have some time, please check out my blog at!

Happy summer solstice!

I am pretty sure this is exactly what goes through Zoya’s head when she’s not busy planning the #turtpocalypse or trying to steal my keys.


Team Tracks Threatened Tortoises at Yuma Proving Grounds (AZ)

by Mark Schauer, The (YPG) Outpost

With November here, the Yuma Proving Ground’s population of Sonoran Desert Tortoises are preparing for brumation, the reptilian equivalent to hibernation. 

Humans responsible for their stewardship, however, are celebrating a year of discovery about the desert creatures.

“We learned more this season about tortoises in this region than has ever been known,” said Daniel Steward, YPG wildlife biologist.

To facilitate YPG’s important mission while at the same time conserving the proving ground’s wildlife population, wildlife biologists have actively sought to determine where populations of desert tortoises live, searching for the creatures in plots of land most likely to have them present. Steward says that, unlike the Mojave Tortoise, which isn’t found at YPG, Sonoran Tortoises prefer rocky areas with lots of shelter sites…

(read more: Yuma Sun)


Illustrated Evolution of the Turtle Shell

Evolution of the turtle shell based on developmental and fossil data. This animation is based on the work of Dr. Tyler Lyson, currently at the Smithsonian Institution. The animation shows how various fossils, particularly Eunotosaurus and Odontochelys, bridge the morphological gap between a generalized animal body plan to the highly modified body plan found in living turtles.

The paper, published in Current Biology, can be found here.

Animation by Stroma Studios

Turtle Terminology


What is a turtle? a terrapin? a tortoise?

It’s been brought to my attention that chelonian terminology is not always clear, so allow me to clarify for you.

Note: most of these points are regarding common names, and therefore open to interpretation and disagreement. Where there is contention, I have tried to cover the different views. These definitions apply in English only! Other languages vary considerably in their terminology.

Chelonia n. (=Chelonii) (adj: chelonian)

The order (or class, depending who you ask) to which all extant turtles, tortoises, and terrapins belong.

The term ‘Testudines’ is often used in place of Chelonia/i, but was shown by Dubois & Bour (2010) to be an invalid choice according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.

Turtle n.

A reptile of the order Chelonia. The formal definition varies between countries.

All marine chelonians are universally referred to as ‘sea turtles’ (see below).

In North America, ‘turtle’ is the term used to describe any predominantly omnivorous, at least semi-aquatic chelonian.

In the United Kingdom, ‘turtle’ is generally used to describe any predominantly aquatic chelonian.

Terrapin n.

In the UK, ‘terrapin’ is the term given to any semi-aquatic chelonian.

In the US, a terrapin is an edible turtle that lives in brackish waters. The word was originally used for the diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin, and is derived from the Algonquian term ‘torope’, but now refers to several species with a similar lifestyle and appearance.

In general, several turtles of the families Geoemydae and Emydidae are often referred to as terrapins. It is not, however, an informative term, and should be avoided in scientific writing.

Tortoise n.

A chelonian of the family Testudinidae. All tortoises lead terrestrial, mostly herbivorous lifestyles.

Sea turtle n.

A chelonian of the superfamily Chelonioidea. There are two families of sea turtles: Dermochelyidae (leatherbacks) and Cheloniidae (all other sea turtles).

Box turtle n.

A turtle of the emydid genus Terrapene. Although they live terrestrial lifestyles, these are turtles and not tortoises, by systematics and morphology.


I hope that clears up the issue. Clarity of terminology is extremely important for an educated discussion.

Tortoises learn to use touchscreens & researchers gain insight into how their minds work (pet rock my shell… ) 

The video shows one of the tortoises in action. Read more below or the full article at LiveScience 

(Via LiveScience ) 

Red-footed tortoises are often household pets. If you own one, you may have to share your tablet computer or smartphone with it from now on. With the right training, they can operate touch-screen interfaces. Researchers led by Dr. Anna Wilkinson of the University of Lincoln (UK) created a touch-screen activity that red-footed tortoises were able to understand. 

The tortoises not only mastered the task in exchange for strawberries, but the animals also transferred their knowledge to a real-life setting. “Generally people see reptiles as inert, stupid and unresponsive,” said Anna Wilkinson, one of the study’s lead researchers and a senior lecturer of animal cognition at the University of Lincoln in England. “I would like people to see that there is something much more complex going on.”

The tortoises, which are native to Central and South America, don’t have a hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with learning, memory and spatial navigation, Wilkinson said. Instead, red-footed tortoises may rely on an area of the brain called the medial cortex, an area associated with complex cognitive behavior and decision making in people. To understand how tortoises learn, the researchers tested how the reptiles relied on cues to get around.

Wilkinson’s colleagues at the University of Vienna gave the tortoises treats when the reptiles looked at, approached and then pecked on the screen.

The four red-footed tortoises in the study learned how to use touch screens fairly quickly, Wilkinson said.

“It’s comparable to the speed with which the pigeons and rats do it,” Wilkinson told Live Science. “I’ve trained dogs to use a touch screen and I’d say the tortoises are faster.”


The snapping turtle, or snapper, is well named, for it will attack anything that comes within range of its powerful jaws, including baby alligators.

Habits Snapping turtles spend most of their time underwater, lying at the bottom of shallow freshwater lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers. In the northern part of their range, snappers hibernate underwater during cold weather.
Snappers become extremely aggressive when confronted on land, and attack is their best method of defense. When threatened, they raise their bodies and lunge fiercely at the intruder.

The snapping turtle is much different from the aquarium turtles kept as pets. Powerfully built, the snapper has strong claws and a hooked beak so sharp it can bite through a man’s hand.

Breeding Mating usually takes place in the water. In early summer 25-50 eggs are laid and covered in a hole dug on land. Hatching usually takes 2-3 months, but eggs laid late in the season may not hatch until the weather warms the following spring.
As soon as they have hatched, baby snappers make their way down to the water where they will append their first few years. They grow quickly and often reach 6 inches in shell length within their first year. Males are fully grown and ready to breed at 3-5 years; females take longer to mature.

Food & hunting Snappers prey on almost anything they can catch and overpower. They eat fish, frogs, salamanders, smaller turtles, water snakes, baby alligators, and small aquatic mammals.
Large prey is seized in the snapper’s jaws and then torn to pieces. Smaller prey is swallowed whole. Snappers also scavenge for food and will feed on the carcass of any dead animal found in the water. Young snappers feed on small fish, tadpoles, and aquatic insects.

Did you know?
• Snappers were once used to find dead bodies in lakes. Tethered to a rope, the snapper was released into the water. When the reptile stopped moving, the trackers knew that it must have found a baby and begun to feed.
• The alligator snapper has a small, worm-shaped appendage at the base of its mouth which it can move at will. It sits, open-mouthed, at the bottom of a lake waiting for small fish which are attracted to the “worm”.
• In some areas of Thailand, turtles are covered in gold leaf and kept in temples.

Key facts
Length: Shell, up to 16 in., overall length up to 32 in. Males are slightly smaller.
Weight: Up to 50 lb.
Sexual maturity: Males, 3-5 years. Females, 4-6 years.
Lifespan: Up to 60 years.

Distribution Shallow freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers along the eastern side of North America from southern Canada down into Central America and northwestern South America.

Conservation Man is the snapping turtle’s main enemy, killing it for food and sport. Still, their numbers remain fairly constant.