Additional copies may be obtained from the following address: Gulf Coast Research Laboratory The University of Southern Mississippi 703 E. Beach Drive Ocean Springs, MS 39564 www.usm.edu/gcrl Text Copyright by: The Center for Fisheries Research and Development Gulf Coast Research Laboratory The University of Southern Mississippi Copyright 2007 AA/EOE/ADAI 8/05 Turtles, Terrapins, and Tortoises What is the difference between a turtle, a terrapin, and a tortoise? In the U.S., they are all called turtles, but there are differences. Turtles that are totally terrestrial (live on land) and do not need constant access to water are referred to as tortoises. Tortoises usually have high domed shells and legs that resemble the legs of elephants. They eat plants and grow very slowly. The giant Galapagos tortoises weigh hundreds of pounds and live for over 100 years. The smaller gopher tortoise, once common in the eastern U.S., is now endangered. Terrapins are turtles that live in brackish water (slightly salty). The diamondback terrapin, once abundant along the Gulf Coast, is now a species of concern. Terrapins are still fi shed along the Eastern Seaboard, but populations are decreasing and measures have been put in place to limit their harvest to insure survival. There are many other species of turtles; some live in freshwater environments and others live in the ocean. The common box turtle lives on land but needs access to water. Sea turtles have streamlined bodies and webbed fl ipper-like feet that allow them to swim easily for long distances. While sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, females return to land to lay their eggs. All species of sea turtles in the U.S. are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Body Parts Trivia: Turtles live everywhere on earth except the Arctic and Antarctica. Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle The Kemps Ridley sea turtle is the smallest and most endangered of all sea turtles. Adults weigh anywhere from 85 to 100 pounds and measure 24 to 30 inches in length. Their diet consists mostly of crabs, but they also eat shrimp, clams, jellyfi sh and fi sh. Loggerhead Sea Turtle Loggerhead sea turtles are named for their extremely large head. They have very powerful jaws which help them crush hard-shell prey like whelks and conchs. Their shell is heart-shaped and reddish brown in color. Red-Eared Slider Turtle The Red-eared Slider is the most recognized turtle. This slider gets its name from the broad red stripe behind its eye. They are found in freshwater ponds, streams, creeks and marshes. They feed on plant and animal material. Trivia: The largest freshwater turtle in the U.S. is the alligator snapping turtle. Common Snapping Turtle The Common Snapping turtle is the largest fresh water turtle. It has a large head and very strong jaws. An adult can reach up to 70 pounds but normally weighs about 35 pounds. Their legs are very powerful, heavily scaled, and have webbed feet with long claws. They feed on plant and animal material and have been known to eat small mammals and ducks. Diamondback Terrapin The Diamondback Terrapin is named for the diamond patterns on its shell. They have black spots and wiggly marks on their skin. Diamondbacks spend most of their time in water and only come out to lay eggs and bask in the sun. They inhabit tidal marshes, estuaries, and lagoons and feed on snails, clams, crabs and plants. Trivia: Leatherback sea turtles can grow to six feet in length and weigh up to 1,300 pounds. Leatherback Turtle The Leatherback turtle is the largest living turtle. It is placed in its own family, called Dermochelys, because its so distinctive. The leatherback travels the farthest, dives the deepest, and ventures into the coldest waters. Turtle Shell Project Paper Plate Construction Paper Scissors Glue/ Tape Instructions: Cut out shapes and designs using the construction paper. Make your own shell by gluing or taping your colored shapes on to the paper plate. Be creative! Then cut out two legs and two arms using the construction paper and then cut out one head and one tail. Glue or tape the head, tail, arms, and legs to the paper plate.