15 Weird and Cutest Turtle and Endangered Tortoise Species

Do you know there are 360 species of turtles? Turtles and tortoises are one of the beautiful animals in the world. Many families often take them as pets, mainly due to a few features. In this article, you will learn more about each species and some interesting facts about them.

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Although many turtle species look similar, they differ in both aesthetic and behavior. Some have spiny shells while others’ are smooth. They can live in salt water or fresh water, and so forth. There are more than 350 turtle species around the globe inhabiting both land and water habitats. Some of the cutest turtles in the world are Mississippi Map Turtle, Eastern Box Turtle, Red-eared Turtle, Red-bellied Turtle Yellow-bellied Slider, and Florida Box Turtle, among others. Here are 15 of the most fascinating turtle species in the world.

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Big-Headed Turtle: The big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum) has a head so large it can’t retract it into its shell for protection, but it makes up for this with its powerful jaws. It also uses its jaws—as well as its rather long tail—to climb trees and bushes. The species occurs in southern China and throughout Southeast Asia, where it is sometimes captured for food. Being hunted for food markets and the pet trade has caused the big-headed turtle to become critically endangered.

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Red eared slider turtle ((Trachemys scripta elegans): Red-eared sliders are very popular aquatic turtles that require special lighting, an animal and plant based diet, and continuous cleaning and maintenance. Red-eared sliders are a serious commitment because they can live up to 20 years in captivity and needs proper upkeeping to stay happy and healthy. If you get one of these quarter-sized babies, it may look easy at first, but as they grow, they will need a bigger tank and a lot of constant care. The red-eared slider is native from the Midwestern United States to northern Mexico, but has become established in other places because of pet releases, and has become invasive in many areas where it outcompetes native species. The red-eared slider is included in the list of the world’s 100 most invasive species.

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Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin): This turtle inhabits the coastal brackish and saltwater marshes of the eastern and southeastern U.S. It is a medium-sized turtle, with males reaching about 5 inches in carapace length and females significantly larger at 9 inches. Generally, the carapace and skin coloration of a terrapin is gray to whitish, with varying patterns of black spots and streaks. Some even have black “mustaches.” Occasionally, yellow blotches are found on the carapace scutes, and an orange tinge may be present on the marginal scutes of some individuals. Diamondback terrapins live in the very narrow strip of coastal habitats on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States, from as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to the southern tip of Florida and around the Gulf Coast to Texas.

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Yellow bellied slider: This turtle (Trachemys scripta scripta) is a land and water turtle belonging to the family Emydidae. This subspecies of pond slider is native to the southeastern United States, specifically from Florida to southeastern Virginia, and is the most common turtle species in its range. It is found in a wide variety of habitats, including slow-moving rivers, floodplain swamps, marshes, seasonal wetlands, and permanent ponds. Yellow-bellied sliders are popular as pets. They are a model organism for population studies due to their high population densities. The lifespan of yellow-bellied sliders is over 30 years in the wild, and over 40 years in captivity.

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Ringed map turtle (Graptemys oculifera): The ringed map turtle or ringed sawback (Graptemys oculifera) is a species of turtle in the family Emydidae endemic to the southern United States. This turtle is frequently found in the Pearl River system in Louisiana and Mississippi. It shares this range with the Pearl River map turtle (G. pearlensis).

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Green sea turtle: This turtle (Chelonia mydas), also known as the green turtle, black (sea) turtle or Pacific green turtle, is a species of large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but it is also found in the Indian Ocean. The common name refers to the usually green fat found beneath its carapace, not to the color of its carapace, which is olive to black. This turtle is listed as endangered by the IUCN and CITES and is protected from exploitation in most countries.

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Radiated turtle (Astrochelys radiata): The critically endangered radiated tortoise is one of the most endangered and most desirable tortoises in the world. Because they are critically engendered, there are several rules against keeping wild-caught radiated tortoise as pets. However, you can keep a captive-bred radiated tortoise. To transport, as well as to sell a captive-bred radiated tortoise, you will need a permit which is valid for five years. Care for this critically endangered tortoise is best left to an experienced turtle/tortoise caretaker. This turtle is native to and most abundant in southern Madagascar. But This turtle can also be found in the rest of this island, and has been introduced to the islands of Réunion and Mauritius.

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Ornate wood turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima): The ornate or painted wood turtle is one of nine turtle species of the genus Rhinoclemmys of the family Geoemydidae. There are four recognized subspecies. Painted wood turtles can grow to a maximum length of 20cm. It has a dome-shaped carapace and the plastron has a continuous ventral line. It has red stripes on its body and it has webbed feet. It is found in Mexico (from Sonora southwards) and Central America, as far south as Costa Rica. Painted wood turtles can be kept as pets, and it has long been imported into the various parts of Asia, such as Japan, Taiwan and China. The nominate subspecies is the most common subspecies kept in captivity. They will eat commercial turtle food, and will also eat plant matter.

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The Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans): This tortoise is a threatened species native to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where it inhabits dry areas and scrub forest. It has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2016, as the population is thought to comprise more than 10,000 individuals, but with a declining trend. It is threatened by habitat loss and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade.[1] It was upgraded to CITES Appendix I in 2019 by full consensus among all member states, giving it the highest level of international protection from commercial trade. Conservation group TRAFFIC found 6,040 were seized globally that were intended to be sold in the pet trade.

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Ploughshare Tortoise: The ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora), also known as the angonoka tortoise, has a beautiful domed, golden-yellow shell with strongly demarcated growth rings. It’s so beautiful, in fact, that it’s known to attract poachers. In March 2013, smugglers were caught carrying a single bag containing 54 of them in an airport in Bangkok. This tortoise, native to Madagascar, is critically endangered with fewer than 600 left in the wild and still declining. It is considered to be one of the rarest tortoises in the world, predicted to go extinct within two decades.

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Yellow blotched map turtle (Graptemys flavimaculata),: Yellow-blotched Map turtles have shells that range from dark brown to olive in color. Each of their scutes have yellow blotch-like markings. They have light or cream plastrons and their skin is covered with bright yellow banded markings. It is part of the narrow-headed group of map turtles, and is endemic to the southern United States. This turtle’s distribution is limited to the Pascagoula River of Mississippi and most of its tributaries (a range it shares with the Pascagoula map turtle).

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Hawksbill sea turtle: The hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in the genus Eretmochelys. The species has a global distribution that is largely limited to tropical and subtropical marine and estuary ecosystems. The World Conservation Union, primarily as a result of human fishing practices, classifies E. imbricata as critically endangered.

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Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea): This turtle is also called the lute turtle and the leathery turtle. It is extremely cute and large, coming in at an amazing five to six feet in length. The leatherback sea turtle can weigh up to 1,100 pounds. It does not have a bony shell but rather leather-like skin and oily flexible flesh. They are tear-drop shaped and made for swimming through the water quickly with giant front flippers. It is a dark gray or black color with white speckles. The leatherback sea turtle lives up to its name and makes its home in the sea. It has a widespread habitat with species found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. There is believed to be a population living in the Indian Ocean, but they have yet to be studied extensively.

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Geometric tortoise: The convex-shaped shell of the geometric tortoise has a bright yellow starred pattern on a black background and a similar, but duller, less-defined pattern on the underside. It is superficially very similar to the more common and widespread tent tortoise but differs from it in that, in the geometric tortoise, the marginal shields are higher than they are wide and there are no buttock tubercles on the back of the hind legs. The front legs are covered with unequal-sized scales and the front feet have five toes. The hind feet have four toes. There is a marked size difference between males (average 100 mm) and females (average 125 mm). The geometric tortoise is one of the rarest tortoises in Africa. It is an endangered species, which means that it is in danger of extinction.

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Galapagos Tortoise: One of the more well-known terrapins, the giant Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the world’s largest living species of tortoise, sometimes living for more than 100 years in the wild. In fact, one captive Galapagos tortoise lived to be 170. The biggest Galapagos tortoises on record were more than six feet long and weighed 880 pounds. The species is native to the Galapagos islands, and subspecies are found on seven of the islands in the archipelago. Hunting, habitat loss, and introduction of nonnative species have caused their numbers to plummet.

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