The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.
Turtles have survived at least three major cataclysmic events that wiped out even the mighty dinosaurs. These slow but steady reptiles have a tough exterior shell and they can survive both on dry and marshy lands. Most turtles can live for hundreds of years, making them one of the most symbolic and prominent species in the animal kingdom.
Today, let’s find out about 42 prominent turtle species of the world and their striking features and specialties. Some of these turtle species are pretty rare and some are great for keeping as pets. From common map turtles to river cooters, I’ll try to briefly share some quirky tidbits about all of them.
Among the 360 major species, the following 42 stand out due to their physical characteristics, habits, and colorful patterns. Let’s find out which features make them so exceptional in the eyes of the ever-changing world.
1. Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
The leatherback sea turtle is not only the largest turtle species but also the heaviest one among all existing reptiles except crocodiles. They can reach up to 500 kilograms in nature.
They also have distinguishable crocodile-like features. For instance – they lack a bony carapace. As they continue to mature, the shell continues to become more & more flexible.
Over time, the carapace is replaced by a leather-like exterior.
Despite being one of the heaviest reptiles, their body is astoundingly hydrodynamic i.e. they can withstand extreme hydrostatic pressure even at 1200 m under the ocean.
Here’s another fun fact about leatherback sea turtles – they can swim or move really fast in water. In fact, leatherback turtles hold the Guinness World Record for moving at the speed of 35.28 km/h in the water. However, the speed generally stays around 1.80–10.08 km/h for these turtles.
2. Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle (Geoemyda spengleri)
The black-breasted leaf turtle is an endemic species i.e. they’re only found in Southeast Asia. China, Vietnam, and Laos – these turtles are mostly restricted to these few regions.
The dark undershell with yellow undertones gives off a regal yet friendly look in these small turtles. They can only grow up to about 5 inches in the wild. Unfortunately, these tiny colorful turtles are at heavy risk of extinction due to the practically non-existent geographical diversity and inclusion.
In the wild, they live on decaying fruits, small insects, larvae, etc. In Southeast Asia, people also love to keep them as pets as they’re extremely adorable with their big googly eyes.
However, the black-breasted leaf turtles are constantly moving towards extinction due to major changes in their natural habitats and overexploitation by the local breeders. In essence, their popularity led to their downfall.
There are over 350 species of turtles in the world. (source: National Geographic)
3. Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
The loggerheads are primarily marine reptiles and they’ve got an extensive geographical diversity. They’ve major similarities with the leatherback turtles since they can also reach up to 400-450 kilograms once they become adults.
But they’ve got a hard carapace unlike leatherback turtles and they’re usually lighter in terms of color and patterns. Most loggerhead sea turtles have a yellowish to brownish body with a reddish-brown carapace.
They also have a considerably low lifespan of 47-67 years.
The female loggerheads have wider underbellies than the male ones and they lay their eggs on the shores. After hatching, the babies find their way to the sea and learn to swim on their own and the cycle continues.
These turtles also have a certain peculiar habit. As they dwell in saltwater mostly, they have special glands behind the eyes. These glands allow them to preserve the osmotic balance by secreting the excess salt from the ocean water.
Hence, whenever this phenomenon takes place in the land, it looks like they’re crying. Though it’s a simple biological process, there are myths around this phenomenon saying that these turtles cry on land as they can’t live without the ocean.
4. Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)
The wood turtles are a native North American species with Canada harbouring over 30% of the total population. They’re also frequently found in most of the New England states. Despite having a broad geographic range and frequent sightings, they’re nowadays considered endangered.
As they’re prominently land turtles, they often become victims of accidents on the road. Recent legislation in the North American states has proposed the idea of underground channels so that they can pass the road safely.
Wood turtles are both omnivores and oviparous. The female turtles move away after laying the eggs in a suitable nest. Hence, only the fittest hatchlings can survive in the wild. Furthermore, due to the wildlife predators like raccoons, street cats, etc., it’s harder for young turtles to survive.
As such, the authorities are rushing to conserve these colorful and playful turtles in the wild. Unfortunately, the striking bright yellow or bright orange color attracts not only the humans but also the predatory species in the areas.
5. Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
IUCN (International Union For Conservation Of Nature) has declared the Hawksbill sea turtles critically endangered due to overexploitation by humans.
To this date, they’re considered delicacies in many areas. Furthermore, they’re also hunted for their beautifully decorated shells to make ornaments like necklaces, bracelets, and other furnishings.
The Hawksbill sea turtles sport a regal amber shell with striking light and dark streaks and black-brown undertones. Unlike most turtles with simple flappers, the Hawksbill sea turtles have two distinctive claws on the forelimbs. Hence, they’re a predatory species in the ocean and expert hunters.
The Hawksbill sea turtles are also fluorescent to an extent, which is another reason why humans hunt them down. Though it’s mostly due to their diet and habitat, some cultures consider it good luck to capture & eat these glowing turtles.
Funnily enough, the variegated diet includes venomous Cnidarians like toxic jellyfish. Over time, the flesh of these turtles becomes toxic as well. As such, consumption of Hawksbill sea turtles can lead to life-threatening diseases.
Turtles have been around for over 200 million years, making them one of the oldest reptile groups. (source: NOAA’s National Ocean Service)
6. Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Western painted turtles are found all over North America and they mostly like to live around ponds and marshy lands. They live on algae, aquatic insects, and small fishes.
These olive turtles with dark shells love to bask under the sun and that’s how you’ll find them on land most of the time. Otherwise, they prefer to stay near the water for food and also to stay protected from land predators like raccoons and predatory birds like eagles, falcons, etc.
They also hibernate during the winter. Normally, the preferable spot is the thick mud under ponds, lakes, etc. During this time, they don’t freeze to death as their blood has anti-freezing properties. As such, they can tolerate an extremely low temperature for an extended period.
7. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)
Olive Ridley sea turtles are like the mini versions of the loggerhead sea turtles. The Olive Ridley is also a primarily aquatic species. However, they live only in tropical waters.
Hence, if the water’s too cold, they can’t survive in the habitat for too long unlike the Western painted turtles. Due to the increasing effects of global warming in the world, the Olive Ridleys have been announced as a vulnerable species.
Fun fact – they’re also the second smallest turtles in the wild. After mating, thousands of female Olive Ridley’s find their way to the same beach to lay eggs.
The heart-shaped carapace is also a distinctive feature, especially in the hatchlings. Before laying eggs, the female turtles dig using their hind flippers to bury the eggs first.
8. Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
The spotted turtles are one of a kind due to their unique coloring on the carapace. Both male and female turtles generate a dark bluish or blackish carapace with yellow spots. The spots look so vibrant over the dark carapace that it looks like these turtles have lots of eyes on their backs!
These turtles are semi-aquatic but their diet mostly features aquatic insects and plants. As they mature, they start to develop more yellow spots on their back as it broadens.
Systemically, the number of spots doesn’t go over a hundred.
The spots aren’t limited to their carapaces, either. You’ll find lots of dainty yellow spots on their heads, necks, fore, and hind limbs that set ’em apart from other dark turtles.
9. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Green sea turtles are also majorly known as Pacific Green turtles since that’s where they’re most found. However, it’s not like they have a sporting greenback.
The green sea turtles actually have a dark olive-ish carapace that looks mossy green or yellow under the water. They have many similarities with the Hawksbill sea turtles except that they’ve got shorter snouts and unhooked beaks.
They also have an unusual green fatty portion right underneath their carapace. Hence, they’re known as green sea turtles mostly despite having a dark shell. They’re also primarily herbivores and live on algae and seagrasses.
10. Chinese Stripe-Necked Turtle (Mauremys sinensis)
As the name suggests, these turtles have visually stunning striped necks with a bright greenish body. As hatchlings, their carapaces have a fresh green hue as well. However, as they mature, the shell slowly turns more and more dark brown.
Many historical artifacts from the Shang dynasty portray the image of the Chinese stripe-necked turtles. They were believed to have spiritual and medicinal benefits in that era.
The Chinese stripe-necked turtles have been announced as critically endangered by the IUCN due to natural invasion.
Despite this, these turtles are still considered great pets in many provinces of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Sea turtles can migrate long distances, with some traveling over 10,000 miles in a year. (source: Earth.Org)
11. Common Box Turtle (Terrapene Carolina)
Remember those cartoons we watched as kids where the afraid turtle would completely go inside the shell to hide? Funnily enough, in real life, not every turtle can do that as the carapace isn’t separate from the shell. In fact, the bone structure itself is what we know as the carapace on the top.
That being said, the common box turtles live up to their name by doing exactly what you’d expect them to do. Whenever they’re stressed out due to environmental or man-made factors, they can choose to hide inside the box i.e. the shell.
This is possible because they’ve got a lowered plastron compared to most turtles and it’s hinged differently as well. Hence, the turtle can choose to completely enclose its head and limbs within the sturdy shell at will. They also have distinctive red irises and they live on land most of the time.
12. Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Although the species is native to North America, painted turtles can be found everywhere and they’re one of the most adored house pets in the States and surrounding areas.
Painted turtles hibernate throughout winter and lower their body metabolism to store energy and heat within their blood.
It can take up to 2-9 years for males to reach sexual maturity.
Alternatively, it can take a whopping 6-16 years for female painted turtles to become fully fertile. They mate in spring once the hibernation period is over & then again in Autumn.
As they’re colorful with bright personalities, four major states of the United States have even declared the species as their official reptile. If you ever visit Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, or Vermont, make sure to drop by the local souvenir shops to find cool painted turtle ornaments and accessories.
13. Coahuilan Box Turtle (Terrapene Coahuila)
The Coahuilan box turtles are basically the aquatic common box turtles. But compared to the common box turtles, they’re much more endangered as they’re prolifically endemic to Cuatro Ciénegas in Coahuila, Mexico.
They have a dark brown (at times, grey or even black) shell with a golden hue and spend 90-95% of their lifetime in water. However, they do tend to travel through the deserts for a long time during the rainy season in Mexico.
Like common box turtles, they too have a hinged lowered shell that allows them to curl fully into the hollow body.
Whenever they sense danger in the wild, they’ll box up immediately. Since they spend most of their time in water, the dark carapace is often covered with algae or moss. Hence, once they’re boxed up, they can easily camouflage themselves under the water and avoid the predator species.
14. Carolina Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin centrata)
Personally, the Carolina Diamondback Terrapin is one of my favorite turtle species of all time. Not to sound biased, but these dainty turtles come with the prettiest patterns and spots that you could just spend hours admiring!
As the name suggests, you’ll find a diamond-looking pattern on the backs of these pretty little turtles. As they continue to mature, the carapace develops more and more swirly lines, and the diamond patterns continue to spread further apart.
And like snowflakes, you will never find two diamondback terrapins that look completely alike.
The swirly lines on the back differentiate from one terrapin to the other, and the swirling pattern is never the same, just like our thumbprints.
Additionally, they’ve distinctive black markings all over their body which contrast extremely well with their pale body. These long, wrinkly marks are found on their head as well.
Terrapins are strong swimmers and they can do equally great in both freshwater and saltwater. However, they prefer to live near the shore mostly for food and procreation.
15. Painted Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima)
The painted wood turtles have a dome-like carapace with a hollow body and webbed feet structure. The colorings and patterns on the carapaces are bright and eye-catching.
The shell looks like the inside of an aged sandalwood log from afar with the stunning brown, yellow, and red streaks everywhere. The lowered shell i.e. the plastrons also has red streaks and stripes alongside the continuous ventral lines.
They love to live in rainforests, hence the colorful patterns. Though their body is more or less strictly terrestrial, they enjoy their time in shallow marshy lands and enjoy aquatic insects, worms, crustaceans, etc. all the same.
The largest turtle species in the world is the leatherback sea turtle, which can weigh over 2,000 pounds. (source: NOAA Fisheries)
16. Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Unlike painted wood turtles, midland painted turtles don’t have log-like patterns on the shells. Their shells are dark and astute without too many patterns on the top. When kept side by side, the midland ones almost look like the goth cousins of the bright and colorful painted wood turtles.
Despite the dark carapace, the midland-painted turtles have striking bodies with colorful patterns. Yellow streaks run throughout the black or greyish body with hints of red and orange. Since they’ve got a dark undertone in both the body and the carapace, the bright streaks look even more stunning.
17. Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii)
The bog turtles are closely related to wood turtles. But as they’re endemic to the Eastern United States, they face critical endangerment due to a lack of geographical diversity.
Like painted turtles, they also hibernate during the winter.
They also look somewhat like painted turtles. However, genetically they have more similarities with the wood turtles than painted turtles.
As they are bright and dainty, they’re smuggled a lot to sell at higher prices as household pets or decorations. Currently, they’re protected under the Endangered Species Act in the United States. But sadly, the numbers continue to go down.
18. False Map Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica)
If you’re thinking if a turtle can make false maps, they can’t. But many myths suggest that the world was indeed created on the back of a turtle, thus making the shell one big map.
Despite being endemic to the United States, they’re pretty commonly found in most of the states. They love to bask under the sun and they’re also strong swimmers. Hence, the habitual diversity is not a big concern for this species.
And they don’t have as many colorful patterns either. Most false map turtles have olive, greyish, or brownish shells. Sometimes, they’ll develop yellow spots or streaks but usually, the dark borders around the spots will hide those too. As such, they don’t catch the eyes of the predators that often.
19. Texas Map Turtle (Graptemys versa)
Yep, you guessed it. These turtles are endemic to Texas only. The Colorado River is their primary habitat and due to high reproduction rates, they’re hardly an endangered species.
Unlike false map turtles, the yellow markings or streaks in these guys are much more profound and visible. The alternating greenish-yellow and black border pattern gives rise to a small but visually stunning striped appearance.
The carapace, however, is not as striking. Just your average dark olive shell with convex scutes. Sometimes, there’ll be yellow markings on the back as well. But as they mature, the shell becomes darker and so do these yellow streaks.
20. Yellow-blotched Map Turtle (Graptemys flavimaculata)
The yellow-blotched map turtles are yet another species endemic to the southern United States. They’re most profound in Mississippi and they’re abundant in the Pascagoula river and almost all of its tributaries.
They’ve got a variegated diet and it changes from habitat to habitat. For instance – most yellow-blotched map turtles prefer a diet of insects, small plants, etc.
However, when they live too close to the river and crustaceans are in abundance, they won’t mind munching down on the aquatic delicacies either. The most striking feature of this species is the blotchy greenish-yellow pattern on the back and throughout the body. Hence, they’re commonly known as the yellow-blotched map turtles.
The smallest turtle species in the world is the speckled padloper tortoise, which can fit in the palm of your hand. (source: National Geographic)
21. Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)
The common map turtle is also known as the Northern map turtle i.e. it’s endemic to North America. They’re also a primarily aquatic species with flipper-like feet for swimming.
Though they move and find their food in water, they love to get up on logs or floating debris to bask in the sun. During the daytime, they’ll spend hours enjoying the warm sun.
Like the other map turtles, they too have contour-like markings on their back resembling the lines of a map. The markings are usually greyish-yellow, brown, olive, etc. However, as they get older, these lines start to fade away.
22. Japanese Pond Turtle (Mauremys japonica)
The Japanese pond turtles are a near-threatened species due to continuous habitat degradation and loss. They’re also known as Japanese stone turtles and they’ve significant historical significance in Japanese culture and myths.
To this date, Japanese people keep statues or artifacts of these pragmatic-looking turtles in their homes for good fortune. They’re also known to ward away evil and ensure safety.
In the wild, they like to live in and around freshwater bodies.
They feed on swamp insects, algae, and small plants. The female turtles are usually larger than the male ones and their yellow-brown carapace is also broader and tougher.
23. Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata)
The Western pond turtles are endemic to the Western United States and Mexico. They were previously found in some places of Canada as well but they’re locally extinct there now.
They have a dark brown/olive carapace but their plastron is mostly yellow with blotchy brown spots. The hatchlings and immature western pond turtles have a serrated carapace. As they reach maturity, the shells continue to become smoother.
They also become dimorphic and the female turtles lay eggs once or twice every year. After laying eggs in a suitable nest, they make sure to cover them up with soil, leaves, etc. to protect the eggs from predators. The nesting place is no more than 90-100 m away from water, so the babies can find their way to the nearest marshy land easily after hatching.
24. Common Pond Turtle (Graptemys geographica)
Pond turtles are an integral part of a healthy and active ecosystem. The painted turtles are the most common and famous pond turtles alongside Northern map turtles and red-eared sliders. Fun fact – red-eared sliders are an invasive species to most of the common pond turtles.
Depending on the regions they’re endemic to, pond turtles get different names. The Japanese pond turtle is a prime instance.
Almost all pond turtles love to sun on a log, but their sharp instincts will allow you only to admire this event from afar.
Despite being slow land creatures, they can swim considerably fast with their webbed feet in the water.
Pond turtles protect the inhabitants of an ecosystem from pesky and harmful insects. They also keep the algae growth in control by feeding on them. Almost all pond turtles hibernate during the winter to preserve their energy for mating during the warm seasons like spring and autumn.
25. European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis)
Like other pond turtles, the European pond turtles are also a freshwater species. They dwell on both land and water but they prefer shallow marshy lands for living and hunting.
As they’re endemic to the Western Palearctic, they’re named European pond turtles.
According to IUCN, they’re a near-threatened species due to a lack of geographical diversity.
Their whole body including the head and limbs contains bright yellow circular or rectangular spots. Their eyes are also yellow with the iris being black or dark brown. While their carapace isn’t as striking, it’s muddy brown with a hint of green. The plastron again, is mostly yellowish.
Turtles have a unique ability to retract their heads and limbs into their shells for protection. (source: Britannica)
26. Indian Roofed Turtle (Pangshura tecta)
The Indian roofed turtles are kept as pets for their quiet nature and simple living standards. They’re also called quiet-water turtles for this very purpose.
However, it’s not recommended to keep them on hard surfaces like ponds with strictly stone bottoms. As their plastron is not as rigid, they’ll hurt themselves if they continue to move on sharp surfaces for too long.
So, if you’re planning to keep these soft underbelly turtles as a pet, make sure to keep them in a tank with ample vegetation at the bottom. You can arrange for an algae carpet so that they can move and swim around easily.
They can also feed on the algae when they’re hungry. It’s also important to make sure enough sunlight gets to the tank so they can come up and bask when needed.
27. River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna)
River cooters do well in freshwater with moderate currents. They can also survive in big lakes and streams provided that the current is not too strong or non-existent.
They need the current as they’ve got a tendency to move around from one place to another. They also like to co-exist with subsidiary species like the painted turtles. In fact, they too go into hibernation when it becomes too cold.
Like painted turtles, they too, lower their body metabolism significantly to stay dormant during this time. While sleeping, they hide underneath the aquatic plants to stay safe from predators. Unlike most other turtle species, they have decent maneuverability on both land and water.
28. Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
Blanding’s turtles take the longest time to reach sexual maturity.
While the life expectancy of most turtles doesn’t get past 7 or 8 decades at most, these turtles take 8-9 decades just to biologically start the process of reproduction.
Though they have a dome-like carapace, it flattens down a bit around the middle. The carapace is mostly dark brownish or greyish with numerous yellow flecks or small streaks.
These spots aren’t as discernible on a dry carapace but when they’re wet, the bright yellow spots start to glisten through. They also have a completely yellow throat and chin and it’s a distinctive feature of the Blanding’s turtles.
29. Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys peninsularis)
The peninsula cooters are yellow-bellied freshwater turtles and they’re native to peninsular Florida. They can go up to 35 pounds in favorable habitats.
Alongside the prominently yellowish plastron, they also have yellow streaks throughout their carapace and body. They swim with elongated limbs to move faster in water.
The male peninsula cooters have claws on the front limbs to arouse the female cooters before mating. Throughout their lifespan, the female is the bigger one after reaching maturity.
Unlike pond turtles, peninsula cooters are mostly restricted to a vegetarian diet. From water hyacinths to duckweeds, they love small green plants. And if you want to keep one as a pet, you can also give them small slices of carrots, collard greens, or other leafy vegetables as treats.
30. Florida Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys nelsoni)
As you probably guessed from the name already, these red-bellied turtles are endemic to Florida i.e. South Georgia. They love to live in big ponds, lakes, and even rivers.
They have even developed tolerance against saline waters to an extent due to biological diversity. However, they thrive better in brackish freshwater compared to saltwater.
In the wild, they’re often spotted with peninsula cooters as they bask in the sun together. The contrast of the yellow plastron works effectively with the reddish plastron to create the enchanting look of a unique friendship in nature.
Turtles have a unique ability to retract their heads and limbs into their shells for protection. (source: Britannica)
31. Red-bellied Short-Necked Turtle (Emydura subglobosa)
The red-bellied short-necked turtle is a popular pet in Australia as it’s a native species in there and New Guinea. Although they’re called ‘red-bellied’, their plastrons have more of a pinkish hue than red or bright crimson.
However, it’s highly discouraged to keep them in close captivity or small aquariums. They need a lot of space to move around as they love to swim continuously for foraging. They like to eat live small fish but can also feed on commercial plant-based or animal-based pellets.
It’s recommended to get at least a 75-gallon tank to properly accommodate the short-necked cuties. However, many pet owners fail to live up to these expectations. As such, the life expectancy of the captured turtles grows shorter.
32. Pig-Nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta)
The pig-nosed turtles are also native to Australia and New Guinea. The prime difference is that they reside in the Northern parts of Australia & southern parts of New Guinea.
Instead of webbed feet like normal freshwater turtles, the pig-nosed turtles have full-on flippers even though they’re not even completely an aquatic species. They are also a pretty aggressive species and can become extremely territorial in their habitats for food and mating partners.
As for the appearance, it goes without saying that the nose itself is the unique feature of these turtles. They’ve got a pretty big head compared to most freshwater turtles. The nose is slightly elongated with distinctive nostrils resembling that of a pig’s snout. So, they’re known as pig-nosed turtles.
33. Softshell Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis)
The carapace of softshell turtles isn’t as sturdy as they never form a proper scute structure from an early age. As they mature, the middle area of the shell starts to develop a backbone-like structure to keep the carapace up & standing.
However, the carapace edges stay soft and leathery pretty much all their life. As they don’t have a heavy shell, they can swim faster in murky waters and also move fast on land.
Like pig-nosed turtles, they too have elongated nostrils.
However, the nose is nothing compared to the elongated neck. Some softshell turtles can even breathe surface air while swimming or staying under the water. This, alongside their illusive carapace resembling the muddy brown water, helps them to hunt & feed on distracted insects, fishes, etc.
Read More – Where Can I Buy A Softshell Turtle?
Some turtle species can live for over 100 years, with the oldest recorded turtle living to be 188 years old. (source: NOAA’s National Ocean Service)
34. Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
As a kid, I used to be afraid of snapping turtles but I’ve grown to become pretty fond of them over time. Sure, they still look pretty scary with the visibly strong jaws and sharp claws on the forelimbs looking to tear their prey apart.
However, these heavy muscular turtles actually help out the ecosystem a lot by being the local scavengers.
As much as they love to hunt live food as omnivores, they’ll also feed on rotting fleshy bodies of big birds, animals, etc.
By doing so, they help the dead bodies decompose faster so that they don’t ruin the balance of the ecosystem. Snapping turtles also keep the other predatory species around the area in check and will eat ample vegetation too if in abundance.
35. Eastern Long-Necked Turtle (Chelodina longicollis)
If you read up on the history of the black tortoise, you’ll find out that there often was a serpent wrapped around its head/neck. And by taking one look at these eastern long-necked turtles, you’ll realize that the myths weren’t pretty far off.
These native East Australian species can have necks up to 60% of the total length of the carapace.
As such, they often have to bend their entire head sideways if they want to go into the shell. Even then, as there isn’t much space to accommodate the extra length, they can’t stay enclosed for too long unlike box turtles or other hollow turtles.
Their carapace is also incredibly flat and broad with deep grooves and dark brown or black patterns. The plastron, on the other hand, is yellowish with black contours. In many places, they’re also known as stinker turtles as they purposefully emit a really bad odor to evade predators.
36. Mata Mata Turtle (Chelus fimbriata)
The Mata Mata turtle is an Amazonian turtle i.e. they’re native to South America. Their flattened head features a long and stout nose with a single spike. Their entire body features crocodile-like properties due to the presence of small tubercles in the limbs and spiky ridges in the back.
Upon maturing, their carapaces turn fully black or deep brown. From the top, you can’t even notice them easily due to the lack of any colorful patterns whatsoever. However, their underbelly will portray a faint shade of red or crimson when they’re hatchlings. Once they’re adults, the color will fade to dark cream or brownish yellow.
Turtles play an important role in their ecosystems as they help control populations of both plants and animals. (source: World Wildlife Fund)
37. Helmeted Terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa)
The Helmeted Terrapin is a small, semi-aquatic turtle found frequently in the African regions. They like fertile marshy lands including rivers, lakes, ponds, etc.
They prefer stagnant water as they like to feed on hatchlings from other species in the area. They especially consider tadpoles as a delicacy and thus, like to live around shallow marshy lands to gain access to them as soon as they hatch.
They also have a strong community. In the wild, they’ve been observed to even drown larger prey than themselves under the water to kill and feed on them as a group of terrapins.
38. Indian Flapshell Turtle (Lissemys punctata)
The Indian Flapshell turtle is a freshwater turtle species native to South Asia. Their name originates from the presence of a few femoral flaps on their plastrons. When their limbs retract into the shell, these flaps help to cover up the limbs so that sharp or rough surfaces can’t hurt the soft limbs.
Their carapace is pretty arched and fully smooth with distinctive yellow spots on the top. But they’re not as frequently distributed throughout the carapace. As an omnivorous species, they’ll feed on pretty much all aquatic species smaller than them. Shrimps and snails are among their favorite foods but they also enjoy flowers and leaves.
39. Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia)
Nope, chicken turtles aren’t descendants of dinosaurs or chickens. Rather, they’re named like this because their meat resembles the taste of chicken meat to an extent.
Chicken turtle soup was a common delicacy back in the day. To this date, many southern provinces use turtle meat in cooking.
Chicken turtles are found in shallow marshy lands as they don’t like large water bodies with dominant predators. They live on tadpoles, crayfish, and other small insects. Occasionally, they’ll feast on fish as well if they can.
As a cold-blooded freshwater species, they have to spend hours basking in the sun to regulate their body temperature.
During this time, they stretch their long neck to get as much sun as possible. When chicken turtles feel threatened, they tend to bite or gnaw at the attacker. This is another behavioral resemblance they’ve got with chickens despite no morphological similarities between the two species.
Turtles have a unique ability to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field, which helps them find their way back to their nesting beaches. (source: National Geographic)
40. Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)
Mud turtles are small, aquatic creatures with slightly domed carapaces that live on small aquatic invertebrates, fish eggs, aquatic vegetation, and dead bodies of other animals.
Like the eastern long-necked turtles, the mud turtles also tend to emit a really bad smell to escape sticky situations. While they’re afraid of humans, they are just as aggressive towards other turtles as they’re very terrestrial.
Mud turtles are omnivores but they love to feed on aquatic insects and small crustaceans like shrimps, mollusks, etc. Hence, if you’re looking to keep one as a pet, make sure to arrange for the occasional crustacean diet to keep ’em happy!
41. Big-Headed Turtle (Platysternon megacephalum)
The big-headed turtles harbor an unnaturally large head compared to their carapace and limbs.
The heads are thrice the size of normal turtles and hence, these turtles are unable to retract their heads into the shell at will.
But they’ve evolved to develop harsh beaks and rigid heads with an armored appearance to scare off the predators. Unlike most semi-aquatic turtles, they’re not as squishy and can easily put up a fight with their armored head if needed.
That being said, they do have a disadvantage in the water as they aren’t as hydrodynamic due to the abnormally large head. While they can climb high surfaces on land and fight predators off, they are half as slow and weak in the water.
42. Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)
Lastly, common musk turtles are the family cousins of the infamous mud turtles. They too, make sure to release an extremely foul odor in the face of predators to flee.
These tiny turtles have short limbs but long necks. While their carapace is mostly black, grey, or brown, they have bright yellow-green streaks down the middle of the neck which is a distinctive feature for these turtles.
When their back is wet i.e. when they’re swimming, these bright streaks can be spotted on their carapace as well. Like most other freshwater turtles, they aren’t as buoyant and hence, like to breathe and feed in shallow water bodies.
Hope you enjoyed getting to know about the 42 prominent turtle species of the world in today’s write-up. If you’d like to explore more fascinating tidbits about wild turtles and tortoises and my experience with the domestic ones, don’t forget to stay in touch with The Turtle Hub!