Wanna read the latest from Clever Magazine?
Click here and return to the coverpage!

On Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins, By Diannek

If you'd like to learn something about turtles, what better place than the internet. You can begin your search by simply typing in the word "turtle" and you'll come up with a wide array of sites. Some are quite informative, keep looking until you find out exactly what you need to know. That's what makes web searches so intriguing.

Let me offer the beginning turtle student some basic terms that might focus a turtle search and lead to a more productive learning experience. The first question most people have when they begin to think about turtles is: what's the difference between turtles and tortoises? I didn't know either so I just looked it up the dictionary.

Here's what Webster says:

: the common name for any reptile of the worldwide order Testudines (pertaining to or resembling a tortoise). Webster says that Testudines includes both aquatic and terrestrial species having the trunk enclosed in a shell consisting of a dorsal carapace and a ventral plastron. (That's the turtle's shell.)
Sea Turtle:  Any of seven species of turtles that live exclusively in the sea having a head that does not retract into the carapace.
Tortoise: a turtle, especially a terrestrial turtle.
Terrapin: any of several edible North American turtles

So, according to Webster's, there isn't a great deal of difference between the terms. However, there is wide variety within the species, and just a little more research will lead to a stunning conclusion. Much of the worldwide turtle population is in grave danger of becoming extinct.

turtle.jpg (13885 bytes)

Here's a photo of two Hawaiian sea turtles.  You can watch them swim around in the Maui Aquarium. If we're not careful the only turtles left on the planet will be found in aquariums, zoos and pet shops. 

Hawksbill Sea Turtle:
This is the beautiful turtle that is prized for tortoiseshell items. Its status is "endangered", its population is indeterminate and it is threatened by shrimpers' nets, egg poaching, the tortoiseshell trade and real estate development.

Plymouth red-bellied turtle:
This is a small pond turtle that makes its home in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Its status is "endangered". As of 1980 there were 300 left. It is threatened by real estate development and predation.

(Predation is a term that comes up a great deal in ecology. It refers to the capture and consumption of prey.)

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle: Its status is "endangered" and as of 1970 there were fewer than 700 mature females and an indeterminate number of males and sub-adults. It is threatened by drowning in trawling gear.  Other threats include egg poaching, the effects of pollution, and degradation of the Gulf Coast, where it forages.

Flattened Musk Turtle:
This very small turtle's status is "threatened". Its range is the Black Water River system in Alabama. It is threatened by dam construction, water pollution from mining, illegal collecting and hybridization.

The other reasons we are losing the world's turtle population are more difficult to understand or begin to justify.  Perhaps, through education, there are some changes humankind could make that would allow turtles, tortoises and even terrapins to remain as part of our natural world and not merely be a footnote on somebody's website.

Find it here!     

Home | Contributors to Clever Magazine | Writers' Guidelines 
The Editor's Page | Humor Archive | About Clever Magazine | Contact Us

No portion of Clever Magazine may be copied or reprinted without express consent of the editor.