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10 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Tortoises

Do you have a pet tortoise? If so, you’re well aware of how amazing they are! But even if you don’t own one, you’ll want to keep reading this post. We’re about to share some surprising facts about these lovable creatures that will make you want to head out and adopt one today!

Their ancestors date back to the time of the dinosaurs!.

tortoise ancestors

Tortoises are one of the oldest living creatures on earth. These beings of earthy and greenish colors have proven to be long-lived since their lineage goes back hundreds of miles of years at the hands of the imposing dinosaurs.

Now, thanks to cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology, its evolutionary history has been studied. The first ancestors of the modern tortoise emerged during the late Jurassic period, around 150 million years ago. At that time, they were very different from their present-day relatives, being small creatures with a Kemps Ridley sea turtle-like anatomy.

It is not only one of the most surprising things about pet tortoises but also one of the most interesting. According to what has been revealed, these animals have remained practically unchanged for millions of years.

They can live over 100 years.

Have you ever thought about how long your pet tortoise will live? If you take care of it properly, the answer is a lot longer than you might think! These reptiles can easily surpass the 100-year mark, and, in some cases, they have been known to live for over 150 years!

Tortoises are one of the longest living animals on the planet. The lifespan of a pet tortoise greatly depends on its species and size. The larger the tortoise, the longer it will live. For example, the Galapagos tortoise can reach over 100 years of age, while the smaller Russian Tortoise has an average lifespan of 30-40 years. The most common pet tortoise, the Hermann’s Tortoise, has a lifespan of around 50-70 years.

Tortoises can swim.

Believe it or not, tortoises are capable of swimming! They often enjoy taking a dip in the pool or a nearby body of water. This is because tortoises are descendants of aquatic turtles, and they love to stay wet.

Don’t be surprised if you see your tortoise swimming laps in its tank or pond – they’re quite good at it! All tortoises can swim to some degree, but some species (like the Galapagos Tortoise) are better at it.

However, it’s important to note that not all tortoises enjoy swimming. If your tortoise seems uncomfortable in the water, it’s best to avoid putting it in.

This surprising fact goes along with the last one – some tortoises can stay underwater for a long time! They do this by holding their breath, which they can do for up to 4-5 minutes.

They can recognize their owners.

Like dogs and cats, tortoises can recognize their owners, and they will often bond with them over time.

If you spend a lot of time around your tortoise, it will learn to associate you with food and attention. This means that it will likely enjoy your company and may even come to you when it wants to be petted or fed.

Of course, every tortoise is different, and some are more social than others. If your tortoise seems shy or uninterested in interacting with you, don’t force it – let it come to you on its own terms.

They can’t chew their food.

Tortoises food

If you’ve ever seen a tortoise eating, you may have been surprised by how they do it. Unlike most animals, tortoises don’t chew their food – they simply swallow it whole! Their mouths are specifically designed for grazing on plants, and they don’t have any teeth.

This can sometimes be a problem since tortoises can’t digest hard objects like bones or stones. If they eat something too tough to digest, it will stay in their digestive system and can cause health problems.

That’s why it’s important to only give your tortoise soft, easily-digestible food like fruits, vegetables, and hay.

They have very good eyesight.

Tortoises have excellent vision and can see much better than most people realize. In fact, their visual acuity is on par with many birds of prey. They are also able to see ultraviolet light, which helps them find food and mate. While their eyesight is quite good, tortoises don’t have great depth perception. This means that they can sometimes misjudge the distance of an object and end up running into it.

Tortoises are slow and social animals.

But did you know that some tortoise species can move quite quickly? The leopard tortoise, for example, can move at speeds of up to 0.6 miles per hour!

Anyway, if you have a pet tortoise, it’s important to keep a close eye on it – these animals are notorious escape artists! They’re very curious creatures, and they love to explore their surroundings, so they can easily wander off if you’re not paying attention.

Contrary to what you may think, tortoises are social animals. They often enjoy the company of other tortoises and will form “tortoise gangs” if they’re kept together in a group.

This means that tortoises will often play together, groom each other, and even sleep in closets together. It’s a fun way for them to keep warm and feel safe.

A tortoise’s shell is not just for protection.

The shell of a tortoise is actually made up of two parts: the carapace (top part) and the plastron (bottom part). 

Tortoises can retract their heads and legs into their shells. This helps protect them from predators and keeps their body temperature regulated.

The carapace is what you see on the outside of a tortoise, and it’s covered in scales that help protect the tortoise from predators and other dangers. The plastron is the inner part of the shell, and it’s covered in a soft material that helps protect and lend stability to the tortoise’s body.

A bridge of bone connects both the carapace and plastron and the whole shell is held together by muscles.

Another interesting fact is that just like humans, tortoises can get sunburned if they’re exposed to too much sunlight. This is especially true for baby tortoises, whose shells are still soft and not fully developed. If you have a pet tortoise, provide it with plenty of shade and UV-protected housing to keep it safe from the sun.

They can survive in a variety of climates.

Red footed tortoise

One of the great things about tortoises is that they can adapt to a wide range of climates. This means that they can be kept as pets in many different parts of the world.

Of course, some tortoises are better suited to certain climates than others. For example, the Russian tortoise is a cold-weather tortoise and can’t survive in hot environments. But the Red-footed tortoise can adapt to a wide range of climates, from hot deserts to cold mountains.

Tortoises also have different personalities – some are shy while others are more outgoing. So if you’re thinking about getting a tortoise as a pet, be sure to do your research and pick a species that will be a good fit for your home and lifestyle.

There are many different species of tortoise.

Did you know that there are over 49 different species of tortoises? These creatures come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny speckled padloper tortoise (which is less than 4 inches long) to the giant Galapagos tortoise (which can weigh over 900 pounds!).

Tortoises can be found in many different parts of the world, from Africa and Asia to Europe and North America. So if you’re interested in getting a pet tortoise, there’s no shortage of options!

The most common type of tortoise is the Gopher tortoise. Gopher tortoises are found in the southeastern United States, and they’re the most common type of tortoise in North America. They can weigh up to 40 pounds, and they live for around 50 years.

Gopher tortoises are a threatened species, so it’s important to do your research before getting one as a pet. Make sure you purchase your tortoise from a reputable breeder and that you have all the necessary permits.


So there you have it – 10 surprising things you didn’t know about pet tortoises. As you can see, these animals are fascinating creatures with many interesting features. If you’re thinking about getting a tortoise as a pet, do your research first and make sure you pick the right species for your home and lifestyle. Thanks for reading!