Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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Turtles There are about 275 species of turtles. Turtles have been around for about 175 million years. Turtles were living with dinosaurs and other extinct animals, and we only have the fossils of them. Turtles are also reptiles even though they do not look anything like snakes or lizards. They are still reptiles. You might think that turtles are amphibians like frogs because they like being in the water, but they do not have slimy skin.

Turtles do not have a backbone. Instead they have a very hard shell. Their shell acts as protections against predators and other things that want to kill them. Not many animals attack turtles when they are full grown, because it is too hard to get what is inside their hard shell. Most animals attack turtles as babies when they have soft shells and are very vulnerable.

Some turtles you can hold in the palm of your hand.

Some turtles are big enough so you can ride on them. Although you can ride on them, they go very slow on land. You might have heard the expressions, "Slow and steady wins the race." But it is not true, all the time. Turtles just go very slow unless they are in the water.

Like other cold blooded animals, turtles cannot live in arctic temperatures. Turtles can only live in warm parts of the world. If the temperatures get too cold the turtles hibernate.

Land turtles are slow and clumsy and need special protections from predators. The bones of their shells are closely joined and the head, legs and tail can be drawn inside. The parts that remain open are covered with hard scales.

Fresh water turtles are often more active than land turtles. Their feet are partially or completely webbed. Many cannot draw the head, legs or tail inside the shell.

Snapping turtles have hard strong sharp-edged jaws that are good for killing its prey. The snapping turtle has a long skinny tongue that looks like a worm so that fish will swim into its mouths. The common snapping turtles of North America live in muddy streams, ponds, and lakes. Most snapping turtles grow about 23 inches long. The Alligator Snapping Turtle is the largest North American land or fresh-water turtle. A big one may weigh up to 140 pounds. This turtle lives in streams that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Leather-Back Turtle has a long leathery shell instead of a hard plated shell. The Australian Snake-Necked Turtle has a long neck like a snake. The Soft-Shelled Turtle has a softer shell designed with little circles on his shell. The Green Sea Turtle is.....well, a green sea turtle! The mother turtles dig a hole in the ground and then lay their soft eggs in the hole and bury them.

After the mother turtle has laid its eggs, it leaves and pays no more attention to them. After about two months in the sun the eggs will hatch and the baby turtle will have to dig its way to the surface.

If some of you have gone to a nice restaurant you might have seen the word Terrapin in the menu. Terrapin is the term for Sea Turtles (especially the ones that are eaten by people).

This concludes my turtle report.