Tortoises: Smarter Than You Might Think!

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Though tortoises are slow on the ground, they are definitely not in the head. Yes, scientists have recently come across experiments proving the intelligence of tortoises. So, how smart are tortoises?

Tortoises are smarter than we expect. In fact, these creatures are fast learners and have long-lasting memories. A recent study shows that tortoises can call back a 9 year old memory.

Still don’t believe me? I hope the mentioned experimental proofs below will convince you.

How Smart Are Tortoises?

I know we really do not expect a tortoise to be intelligent or smart. All our books suggest that tortoises are animals with minimum intelligence and prefer solitude.

Of course, we are wrong. In reality, these creatures have much more developed brains than we assume.

Aldabra & Galapagos Tortoises Can Learn Tricks

Recently, a study was done on 9 Aldabra tortoises and 8 Galapagos tortoises. The researchers collected these experimentees from 2 different zoos. Later, the team taught the tortoises different tricks.

To everyone’s surprise, all the tortoises proved to be fast learners and quickly picked up social learning skills. Studies at different times have shown that the Aldabra tortoises perform well in tasks in positive reinforcement.

Red-Footed Tortoises Can Touch Screens!

Similarly, experiments have mentioned that red-footed tortoises can learn touch screens. But yes, in exchange, they take strawberries or something similar for motivation. Well, there is more to it. Scientists have discovered that this species has a visual memory of more than 18 months.

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Giant Tortoises Have A Sense of Direction

Moreover, giant tortoises are often seen traveling from one place to another. While migrating, these creatures barely get lost. Therefore, it is assumed that tortoises have a strong sense of direction.

Experiment: Explicit Memory Of The Tortoises

A group of researchers experimented on the tortoises, keeping food as a reward. As per the rules, the tortoises were taught to bite a specific colored ball set at the end of a stick. When successful, the experimentees were rewarded with food. Similarly, there was no food or punishment for failure.

The researchers trained tortoises in 2 different ways. For example, they decided to teach the creatures individually in one zoo. On the contrary, they preferred a social learning session in the other zoo.

Once the tortoises were trained, the scientists returned after 95 days to test the creatures’ memories. They also run the same testing after 9 years.

Surprisingly, all the tortoises performed well and passed the test even after 95 days. Also, their being in a group or individual did not matter. However, they were not too good at this discrimination task after 9 years and needed a review session. Scientists tagged it as an explicit memory of the tortoises.

Experiment: Implicit Memory Of The Tortoises

Another experiment was done where the tortoises were trained to go to a target. In this task, the group members did better than the individuals. Moreover, their performances were the same after 3 months and 9 years. So, this is an example of implicit memory of the tortoises.

Though tortoises are solitary creatures, they must maintain a social communication cycle. At least, the above experiment proves it. The experts suggest that the wild tortoises leave clues of migrating direction, food resources, etc., for fellow neighbors. Looking up to another tortoise gives them confidence and motivation for tasks.

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Even some tortoises have a habit of nosing others. It can be a way of communication in the physical form.

In short, tortoises are smart and intelligent. They can hold onto memories and directions, especially if it is a social task. But how does the tortoise’s brain work? Well, we need more research on that.

Are Tortoises Smart Enough For Human Interaction?

Of course, tortoises are not as smart as most pets. But they are not dumb, either. In fact, these creatures are intelligent enough to interact with their owners.

Instead of wiggling their tails and licking the skin, the tortoises harmlessly expand their necks. It is a signal that the pets want your attention.

Also, sometimes the tortoises jump up and down seeing their owners. Furthermore, following the masters is also not uncommon in the tortoises.

Another sign that the tortoise understands you is its reaction to your petting. Yes, tortoises do not like to be touched frequently. But from time to time, these creatures enjoy petting and close their eyes when you touch them.

Therefore, it is evident that tortoises show emotional attachment to their owners. In addition, they interact with humans in their own way.

Do Tortoises Show Emotions?

We tend to judge smartness and intelligence based on emotion. Considering this, tortoises are obviously not the smartest creatures as they show little attachment.

But this theory is not entirely true, and tortoises express many emotions. Of course, their feelings are not as intense as ours, but you can not ignore them.

Allow me to explain the different emotions of tortoises,

1. Curiosity:

Every owner knows how curious these creatures are! Tortoises will take a bite of anything new coming their way. Though nibbling is a sign of curiosity in most cases, sometimes it causes them diarrhea or vomiting.

2. Excitement:

Tortoises often get excited to see their owners. You will notice these creatures jumping and following the owners as a sign of affection and excitement.

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3. Stress:

Of course, tortoises get stressed. A change in lifestyle or any disease can make the pets stressed. Also, frequent touch and loud environments are responsible for this mental state of the tortoises.

4. Dominance:

Tortoises are protective of their territory and power. So, when it comes to congested areas or food scarcity, the creature will do anything to protect themselves.

5. Bully:

These innocent-looking creatures are spotted bullying each other. Usually, healthy and strong adults tease the females and babies to show power.

6. Social Skills:

Yes, tortoises are not social creatures. But they maintain communication to inform each other of the direction and resources.

7. Fear:

Though tortoises have integral body armor, anything fishy in the environment scares them. For example, tortoises mark rough touch, inappropriate approach, loud surroundings, etc., as threats.

Are Tortoises Smarter Than Turtles?

Though there is no research proof, an educated guess is that tortoises are smarter than turtles. Why do I say that? Let’s start with social skills.

If you look into the turtles, they prefer solitude and barely interact with their owners. Of course, tortoises also like to live alone. But they seem to be docile and like a little interaction.

Again, tortoises show a stronger stream of emotions than turtles. Moreover, recent studies indicate that tortoises have long-lasting memories. They can learn new tricks and participate in social learning.

So, considering these 3 factors, tortoises are definitely smarter than turtles.

Before You Go

Though tortoises are considered smarter, turtles are not dumb, either. Turtles also feel strong emotions in day-to-day life. Does it mean turtles cry or feel sad? The following article will clear up your confusion.

Do turtles cry when they are sad?

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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