Turtle Myths


Below is a list of some of the most common myths and misconceptions that the lay community has about turtles. The bold section indicates the myth, while the text below clarifies it.

Turtles Are Amphibians.
Due to their generally aquatic lifestyles, many people believe turtles to be amphibians, like frogs and newts. However, turtles are reptiles just like snakes, lizards, and crocodilians. The main difference between reptiles and amphibians are that reptiles are covered in dry scales or scutes, while amphibians have moist skins. Amphibians also produce eggs that are dependent for the most part on water, while reptiles have shelled-eggs that are terrestrially adapted. Most amphibians undergo a metamorphosis from juvenile water-breathing forms to adult air-breathing forms, reptiles do not. As turtles are covered in scutes and scales, do not undergo a metamorphosis, and have amniotic eggs, they are reptiles not amphibians.

Turtles can leave their shells and run around ''naked.''
Despite what we observe in cartoons and television programs, turtles cannot leave their shells. The shell is fused to the turtle's backbone and ribs. The shell is a living and growing part of the turtle. Turtles can also feel, if something touches the shell.

If a turtle gets flipped over onto its back it cannot right itself.
In most instances turtles can use their long and powerful necks as an aid to right themselves up.

Turtles and other reptiles are cold-blooded and cannot feel pain.
Turtles and other reptiles are not cold-blooded, if their blood was continually cold their optimal body functions would cease to work and they would die. Reptiles are ectothermic. This means their body temperature is about the same as that of their surroundings - often slightly higher. Reptiles must rely on sources like the sun to warm up. Many people think ectotherms are indeed cold-blooded and are unable to feel pain. However, recent research indicates that reptiles can experience pain. According to Douglas R. Mader, MS, DVM, DABVP-CA (2010) there have been studies looking at receptor sites. Reptiles have the same neurologic and receptor sites as do mammals. Furthermore, in a survey by Matt Read, members of the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians were asked if they felt that reptiles felt pain. Nearly 100% responded yes.

Captive Turtles will grow to the size of their environment.
This is an old misconception which is not true. Sometimes captive turtles that are improperly cared for may have their growth stunted. This is probably where this myth originated from.

If a snapping turtle bites it will not let go until sunset or until it thunders.
Completely false!