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5 Interesting Tortoise & Turtle Facts

5 Interesting Tortoise & Turtle Facts

This article was first published on 20 March 2017 and was updated by Leigh Hermon on 10 October 2018.

Turtles are classified as reptiles, breathe air, lay their eggs on land and have been around for roughly 157 million years, but you probably already knew that. Here are five facts you probably don’t know about these lovable creatures.

1. Turtles in space

An unnamed tortoise was one of the first living creatures to visit space.

In 1968, the Soviet Union launched a space probe carrying a number of animals, including two turtles. Even though they spent a week in space, the pair only lost 10% of their body weight and showed signs of undue iron in their liver tissue.

Both remained active afterwards and showed no long term effects of visiting the great beyond.

2. Fish bait

The Snapping Turtle has a small attachment on its tongue that looks a lot like a worm when wriggled. An unsuspecting fish is usually lured over by the promise of a quick and tasty snack, but then ends up within snapping distance of a hungry turtle.

3. Tortoises at war

If you’ve ever watched a roman war film, you’ll be familiar with how soldiers used their shields to form a hard barrier between them and flying arrows. This was called the Testudo Formation, named after the Latin word for tortoise.

4. The oldest tortoise

The world’s oldest tortoise also happens to be one of the oldest living animals. His name is Jonathan, he’s 186 years old and he lives on St Helena. He arrived there when he was 50 years old, and his life has been fairly well-documented since. Jonathan is so famous in those parts that he actually appears on the back of the Saint Helena 5c coin.

Jonathan is still alive and well, but is on a strict diet to keep him alive and healthy.

Bonus fact

A group of tortoises is referred to as a creep.


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