Why Do Turtles Stack?

Why Do Turtles Stack

What is a turtle stacking? Why do turtles stack? Is stacking bad or good for the turtles? Are you looking for these same questions as thousands of other turtle owners? If yes, then you have come to the right place.

According to experts, the reasons behind turtle stacking can be many and not all of them have been determined yet. Some of the probable reasons are:

  • To protect themselves.
  • To get UV rays from the sun.
  • To warm their bodies fast.

Read on to this article to get a closer look at the turtle’s behavior. This will surely help you understand your pets better than before.

What Is Turtle Stacking?

I am pretty sure most of you are familiar with the term “Turtle Stacking” or at least the activity. Have you seen a group of turtles piling up on each other or climbing on each other’s back? Yes, that is what turtle stacking is.

Stacking is a natural phenomenon among the turtles. You can call this an innate behavior. The experts claim that turtles do it to attain a better position while basking. Also, this activity comes with some additional benefits and drawbacks.

Most of the time, turtles try to get the upper position of the pile. Once a turtle gains the top spot, it will hardly withdraw its position.

3 Reasons Why Turtles Pile Up On Each Other

By now, you know turtles pile up on each other for several reasons. The stacking somehow also indicates the instant need and psychology of the turtles. Here are the probable reasons why turtles stack:

  1. To bask in a congested space
  2. To protect themselves from predators
  3. To dominate the fellow weak turtles

Let’s go deeper into the stacking behavior of the turtles.

Basking In A Congested Space

Basking indicates 2 different things. Such as:

  • Absorbing UV rays from the sun
  • Getting warmth to dry body

I guess you already know how significant the sun is in a turtle’s life. The turtles kind of worship the sun. The UVA and UVB rays help the turtles live a healthy and active life. How?

Well, turtles can not absorb vitamin D3 and calcium directly from the foods. They depend on the UVB exposures which help to generate Vitamin D3 inside their bodies. And eventually, the turtles can bring balance between calcium and vitamin D. The turtles can suffer from MBD or other diseases due to the lack of UVB rays.

Again, the UVA exposures are equally important to the turtles. It keeps them active and happy. So, the turtles stay stress free and in a calming mood.

However, in the wild, the turtles choose the logs, rocks, or a small land area as a basking dock. Not all the spots are perfect for them. They will only select those places from where they can get enough UV rays.

Now here is the problem. Most of the time, the basking space is not enough for the group of turtles. So, not all of them get a chance to bask. To solve the problem, the turtles pile up on each other.

The turtle stacking is not difficult. One turtle just has to climb upon another one. The top turtle will absorb more UV rays than the bottom one. The turtles do stacking to avoid any type of fighting. Or you can say, this is the turtle’s way to bring peace.

Warmth is another reason why turtles do stacking. Turtles are ectothermic species. It means they can not generate heat in their bodies and depend on the environment for warmth. Turtles can swim underwater for hours but from time to time they have to come to the surface to dry their bodies.

When you see a pile of turtles under the sun, this may mean they are drying their bodies and searching for warmth. Stacking helps the turtles access the warmth faster. How? Let me explain.

When the turtles climb upon each other and stack, the absorbed heat of the sun spread more effectively. The more turtles present in the pile, the more heat there will be. So, the turtles allow the stacking so that they can get the target body temperature soon and dive back into the water.

Protection From The Predators

Turtles are little creatures. According to statistics, most attacks on the turtles occur when they are basking on the logs or rocks. To deter the predators, turtles adapt the stacking tactics.

Size matters most when you are in the wild. Predators will not attack you if you are bigger in size. That is exactly what the turtles do.

When they climb on each other, they look bigger than their exact size. The most common enemy of the pond turtles is alligators. The size scares off the predators as it would be difficult to get the snack.

Also, even if the predator starts biting, it would take a lot of strength to get through the pile of hard shells. As a result, the turtles can bask safely.

There can be another possibility. The more eyes on the water, the more safety you can assure. So, the turtles do the stacking and keep an eye on the area. If they get the tiniest signal of danger, they start backing off.

Dominance On The Fellow Weak Turtles

If you are familiar with turtle’s behavior, you know they are a bit aggressive in nature. They try to dominate the fellow young, baby, and female turtles. Some turtle enthusiasts believe that turtle stacking can be another way of displaying dominance.

Usually, the strong turtles get the top position on the pile. As that spot can hold more UV rays, light, and warmth, this ensures the good health of the dominant turtles. On the other hand, the weak turtles do not involve in fighting with the strong ones as they can not win the deal.

Is Turtle Stacking A Social Thing For The Turtles?

At the first glance, it might seem like the turtles are doing a social gathering. But the scene is quite opposite.

The turtles are anything but social animals. They prefer spending their whole life alone. Sure, they live in a community or move together, but do not prefer companions. You will find them at their most social behavior during the mating season.

So, no, the turtle stacking is not a social thing. They pile up together when there is limited basking space or the possibility of a predator attack.

Which Turtle Is At The Better Position?

After seeing a turtle stacking, the first question that comes to mind is, “Which turtle is getting more advantages?” Or “Which turtle is in the better position?”

Well, you can not give the exact answer to this question because each position has its own advantages and disadvantages. The top turtle gets more UV rays and direct heat from the sun. The bottom turtle does not get much UV exposure, but it can absorb more warmth. The other turtles also receive a considerable amount of UV and heat.

If you compare all the positions, the top one is always better. Why? It is because UV rays and heat are a must for the turtles to lead a healthy life. If a turtle gets an abundant amount of these, it will surely live a healthier life.

Now you can question if the turtles fight over the top position or not. The answer is no. They know all of them are getting more advantages than they would attain on their own. So, the turtles do not scramble over the stackings and no fighting occurs.

Can Turtle Stacking Be Dangerous?

Before knowing much about the turtle stack, I would pity the bottom turtle of the pile. I always thought that the bottom one is getting hurt as it’s carrying more weight. Also, the bottom turtle has the least access to UV rays and heat. So, it will lead the turtle to different diseases.

But after researching this topic, I found out my thinking was wrong. According to a study, the turtle shell is very strong and it would take 340 kg weight to break or fracture the scutes. If you make a stack of 240 1 kg turtles, then the bottom turtle might get hurt. But if you are seeing a stack of 3 or 4 turtles, do not worry about the bottom one. It is doing just fine.

Dark Sides Of Turtle Stacking

You have seen the advantages of turtle stacking. Does this activity really have any dark side or disadvantages? Here are some most concerned questions about turtle piling:

  1. Does the turtle stack cause sickness due to the lack of warmth?
  2. Does turtle stack cause Metabolic bone diseases due to the less absorption of UV rays?
  3. Do the turtles get involved in fighting to gain the top position?

Let’s answer each question one by one.

First of all, the turtles will fall sick due to the lack of warmth or UV rays if,

  • The bottom turtle always stays in the same position.
  • The top or upper turtles block the UV rays.
  • The top turtle blocks the heat reaching down.

But if you study and observe turtle stacking in real life, nothing like this happens. The turtles are always changing positions in the stacking. The top turtle does not block any heat or UV rays. Rather it sits in such a way that the sunlight and UV rays can reach the bottom turtles.

However, in a previous section, I have mentioned that the strong turtles display dominance while piling up. They always try to gain the top position. Even though it occurs pretty often but not all the time.

The small or weak turtles also get the chance to attain a better position at the stacking. Even if they don’t, they prefer making peace with it. They understand, if all fight for the same position, no one will get benefitted. And they are getting more advantages by basking in a stack than they would if they are on their own.

So, if we get back to the questions, then I can assure you there is nothing wrong with the turtle stacking. Even there is no dark side to it. Each turtle gets the chance to be in a better position and enjoy the advantages of it.

Do Pet Turtles Stack In Captivity?

“Why are my turtles stacking?” I have got this question multiple times. People often go confused if the pet turtles stack or not. The answer is yes. The turtles can stack in captivity too.

See, turtles mainly stack because of the congested basking space or improper heating system. So, if a pet faces a similar problem in your indoor habitat, it will try to climb its tank mate turtle. In the wild, turtle stacking is a normal and natural phenomenon. But in captivity, things can get a bit complex.

Here are the reasons why turtles stack in captivity:

1. The basking space is congested: I always emphasize the size of the basking dock. If you have multiple turtles, make sure the dock is spacious enough for the pets. If not, then the pets will not be able to bask properly.

As a result, the turtles have to climb on each other to make their basking spot. This can be a reason why your pet turtles are stacking.

2. The dock is not well heated: If you use a low quality heating lamp or UV lamp, it will not be able to warm the whole area. So, the turtles will try to stay in a place that is warmer and hot. To get the right temperature, the pets may climb on to each other and spread heat.

Can You Prevent Stacking In Captivity?

As I have said, stacking in captivity is not something we desire. So, we have to eliminate the problem as soon as possible. As the UV lamps are not as strong as the sun, the bottom turtle may get less amount of UV exposure. It can lead to minor diseases.

So, how to prevent turtle stacking in captivity? Here are some tips for you:

  1. As the turtles’ stack due to small space in the basking area, make it spacious. Make sure the dock is large enough for all the pets in the enclosure.
  2. The dock position can be another reason. Check if the station is in the right position.
  3. Set multiple UV bulbs if you think the turtles are stacking due to the lack of UV rays.
  4. Do not increase the enclosure temperature.
  5. Check if the heating bulb is working properly.

Conclusion

Turtles like to stack, as I have said it is their innate behavior. We have seen the reason behind turtle stacking and what the solutions can be. Even though this activity is not dangerous or harmful to the pets, make sure to provide the turtles with a proper basking area, UV bulbs, and quality heating lights.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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