How long does a turtle live?
Turtles have lived on earth for over 230 million years, which is even longer ago than the dinosaurs. A very versatile creature, the turtle has been able to adapt to just about every kind of habitat too. From deserts and woodlands to swamplands and the sea, turtles are found everywhere on the planet except the North and South Poles.
The word, “turtle” is often used interchangeably with the word “tortoise.” So when someone asks what the biggest turtle is, people will often think of the Galapagos tortoise. The same thing goes with the age of turtles. The Galapagos tortoise has been known to live well over 150 years.
In North America, a “tortoise” almost always spends it’s life on dry land. A “turtle” spends most, if not all of it’s life in water. We also use the word “terrapin” when referring to the animal that lives in brackish (part-salt) water. This brings us to the turtle, as we call them, in North America.
All turtles and their cousins the tortoises and terrapins, have outer shells that are a protection to their soft insides. Some shells are “hinged” on the lower shell, allowing the animal to pull it’s head and legs inside. The American Box Turtle has this type of shell.
Some turtles, like the Mud turtle and the Musk Turtle, have hinges that only close partially. Their legs are often left sticking out. Aquatic turtles don’t have hinges on their shells. The Painted Turtle, Red-Eared Sliders, and Cooters are members of this group.
There are turtles that have shells that are leather-like instead of being hard like other turtles. The Leatherback Sea Turtle is a good example of this group. They also grow to be quite large, often reaching over 95 inches in length.
The turtle’s shell actually plays a role in the longevity of the turtles life. The turtle’s shell, which is a keratin-like substance, grows very slowly, and continues to grow through a turtles lifetime. Turtles don’t exert a great deal of energy either and this slow way of going through life helps the turtle to live a long time.
So how long does a turtle live? There are several factors that come into play. In the wild, a hatchling is fortunate to live a few weeks, and if it succeeds in making it past that time, the odds are more in it’s favor. For example, the tiny Painted Turtle has been known to live up to 40 years in the wild. They don’t do that well in captivity though, as many children have learned over the years.
A favorite in many backyard gardens with pools is the Red-eared Slider. In a protected habitat, or an aquarium with filtered water and a heater, they have been known to live as long as 85 years. It’s important to add that turtles must be kept in an aquarium that good hygiene is practiced, as they can carry a bacteria called salmonella.
Box Turtles get their name from the way they can pull in their feet, head and tail, snapping the hinges on the bottom shell so tight they look like a box. The box turtle has it rough when first hatched. It takes almost seven years for the shell to harden, and until that time, thus it falls prey to any number of creatures looking for a quick meal. They can live 30 or 40 years, but some have lived to be 100 years old.
In short it depends on what kind of turtle (or tortoise) you are referring to, to know how long does a turtle live. Additionally if these are household pets, the care and quality of the environment provided, will also make a world of difference.