Why Do Turtles Move So Slow?

If you have ever seen a turtle in the wild, or if you are interested in them at all, you may be wondering about their movement and how it relates to other animals, including humans.

When we think of turtles we think – slow

So the question is – Why do turtles move so slow?

Let’s find out why in this article

Carry on reading

Why do turtles walk so slowly?

The reason for walking slowly is not as simple as it seems.

Turtles need to conserve energy by moving very little especially when they are basking on warm rocks.

A lot of people think that turtles cannot thermoregulate (warm up) themselves but this isn’t true either.

They can just take longer than most mammals to achieve the same temperature.

The main thing with turtles is the amount of time it takes them to get from one place to another.

This is also determined by what kind of terrain they are traveling through.

For example, many kinds of land turtles move around on soft ground while some sea turtles travel along beaches where there aren’t any roads or paths.

When they go into the water it’s even slower since they don’t use their legs much.

In general, they move around using only their front flippers

Another factor affecting their speed is whether they are carrying eggs.

If they’re running away from predators then they won’t waste time going fast.

However, if they are trying to escape an approaching storm, they’ll probably try to keep calm until they reach higher ground.

So instead they might crawl across beach sand which would be faster than swimming in open waters.

What happens if they were to run though?

It depends on the species.

Some turtles are known runners such as tortoises who sometimes sprint quite quickly.

Slow lizards tend to stay close together so they wouldn’t really benefit from running too far ahead alone.

Tortoises could cover distances between 50 feet to 10 miles per hour.

That said, every animal has its own pace based upon its size and weight and their particular habitat.

Even snakes and salamanders can run pretty well after eating something big enough.

But turtles generally prefer to walk rather than run.

Because turtles have no hindlimbs, running requires extra effort.

Their bodies need to store more oxygenated blood near their hearts to help muscles function during bursts of activity.

Running puts pressure on joints, requiring greater muscle strength.

And if turtles had long legs to begin with, running becomes harder due to increased distance over shorter periods.

Also, turtles’ shells protect their necks from injury and the neck needs to remain straight when running.

All these factors make running hard work and unnecessary.

We should note here that turtles do often swim against strong currents, streams, etc., and must therefore move along the bottom.

Swimming in water helps breathe air back into lungs and gives turtles access to food sources underwater.

So why do turtles move so slowly?

It makes sense that turtles move slow because they are amphibians and rely heavily on living both above and under the surface of the earth.

One way to survive is to avoid getting overheated, which means staying out of direct sunlight and avoiding prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

As mentioned earlier, their shell protects their necks from injury and the neck needs to remain straight when running.

Running puts pressure on joints, requiring greater muscle strength.

Water keeps them cool since it absorbs heat easily.

Also, turtles’ eyes are set low on head and cannot see objects directly overhead.

So they mostly depend on feeling the suns position with their sensitive skin.

And finally, they can hide behind logs, leaves, etc.

Another point worth mentioning is that turtles eat lots of dead meat, plants and fruits, plus mudworms, slugs, snails, small fish, frogs, insects, worms, clams, crabs, mollusks and carrion.

Most of their calories come from protein, so turtles are carnivores.

They mainly feed on vegetation, although some herbivorous ones exist.

Frogs are important prey items.

Turtle diets vary according to local conditions.

They consume large quantities of algae and detritus (dead material), which provides essential nutrients.

Many turtles spend part of their lives feeding inside ponds.

The pond environment allows easy digestion and absorption of available foods.

Thus, turtles gain considerable amounts of calcium and phosphorus from the pond itself.

As previously stated, turtles are amphibious.

Unlike other types of amphibians, however, turtles can absorb oxygen through their skins from outside air as well as breathing it in.

While the process of absorbing oxygen through the skin is similar to birds, turtles can also breathe through their mouths once submerged.

An interesting fact is that turtles are capable of holding their breath indefinitely!

Since they don’t need to drink frequently, turtles usually lay their eggs on wet soil.

After hatching, hatchling turtles emerge from nests covered with mucus secreted by adults to prevent dehydration.

Hatchlings leave the nest daily, returning each night.

Once they shed the protective covering, they immediately return to the safety of the nest.

Adult turtles dig mating burrows and laying chambers underground, and females build shelters atop suitable banks.

Males court females within their territories before copulation occurs.

Mating pairs construct a chamber which serves as a nursery area.

Females lay clutches of eggs several times annually.

Incubation periods range from five weeks for smaller eggs to 20 months for larger ones.

Eggs incubate without being disturbed. Inside the egg sacs, the embryos develop further while nourished by yolk granules, amniotic fluid and uterine wall secretions.

During gestation, the female continues to grow bigger and her ovaries produce more eggs.

About two thirds of the embryo develops externally and is visible as a mass called “turtle jelly.”

Embryos continue developing internally throughout pregnancy and give birth to fully developed young larvae.

Young turtles weigh less than 1 gram at birth.

By day 15, hatchlings start crawling about independently. At first, they scurry forward with short steps.

Gradually, they learn to waddle, hop, skip and climb slopes.

Within three years, they become adept swimmers, climbers and divers.

Are turtles smart?

Yes, turtles are smart indeed!

Most turtles live 3 – 5 decades depending on climate and diet.

Scientists believe that turtles sleep about 16 hours per day.

Like us, turtles experience seasonal changes.

They hibernate during winter and mate in spring.

Turtles enjoy good health despite having no immune system.

They have few diseases to worry about.

Their ability to regenerate lost limbs indicates that they possess self-healing abilities.

Reptiles have been classified as cold-blooded whereas amphibians are considered hot-blooded.


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