From tiny baby terrapins, to the most massive turtle in the world, these are 12 of the Most Unusual Turtles!
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Pig Nosed Turtle
It’s the only freshwater turtle that has flippers similar to that of marine turtles … but that’s not their most distinguishing physical characteristic, of course. As you can see, the creature’s nose resembles that of a pig. But its proboscis (proh-BHAS-is) isn’t only there for show. The nose can function as a type of snorkel, protruding through the water’s surface as the critter stays submerged. It’s also sensitive to movement, and is used to hunt prey in murky waters. They’re native to Australia and New Guinea, and can weigh over 40 pounds.
African Helmeted Turtle
As you might expect, this reptile is native to Africa, and is found in bodies of water from the Sub-Saharan regions to Yemen. They have four glands on each of their limbs that produce a powerful odor that humans and equines in particular find offensive. Unlike many turtles, this species is able to right itself from being upside down .. with just a flick of their long, muscular necks. These turtles are rather small with the average carapace (KARE-uh-pace) around 20 cm long. But they have been observed to hunt in groups … Often taking down larger prey like doves when the birds land to drink. Did you know this is the only turtle species known to exhibit such behavior?
Northern Map Turtles are not considered rare … nor are they especially weird. Unless you count their skin and carapace … They possess markings that resemble contour lines found on a map or chart … Hence their name. However, we did find some pictures of these unassuming reptiles caught in a rather weird position … that of a conga line! Seven of the turtles were found in the well-choreographed pose on a log that was floating in a lake in Ontario, Canada. And there is a specific reason why the the animals assumed the position. Experts tell us it’s their way of catching rays … That is, the turtles are warming their blood from the heat of the sun, and absorbing Vitamin D which builds strong bones and shells. It seems the log in the middle of the water was the only option on which all seven of them could perch.
This scary looking critter is found in the Orinoco and Amazon Basins of South America. And in Spanish, its name translates to “kill kill”. The creatures can grow up to two feet long and tend to be more sedentary than other turtles. Did you know their unique neck is actually longer than its vertebrae? It’s long enough to function as a snorkel, as it stays submerged at the bottom of a stream. When feeding, they can essentially ‘vacuum’ prey into their mouths. As fish approach, the turtle will open its mouth wide … As a low-pressure vacuum is created, Mata Matas will expel the water by snapping their mouth shut, and swallowing the prey whole. This type of ‘suction feeding’ is practiced because their jaws are physically unable to chew. Due to their unique looks, these critters are popular in the exotic pet trade … and are said to live up to 75 years!
Baby Diamondback Terrapins
We identified these tiny turtles as baby Diamondback Terrapins. While they’re small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, they will grow bigger. Females grow bigger than males … they measure around 7.5 inches as opposed to the male’s 5 inch size. Diamondback Terrapins get their name from the odd, diamond-like patterns found on the top of their shell, or carapace … you can discern some of those patterns in the picture. The animals exhibit unusual, wiggly black markings and spots across their head and body. They’re found in brackish tide waters from the US to Bermuda … and can survive in full-strength salt water for extended periods thanks to their skin being impermeable to salt. Did you know that when it rains these animals will obtain fresh water by raising their heads with their mouths open to catch raindrops?
Leatherback Sea Turtle
This is not only the largest of all living turtles … it’s also the fourth heaviest modern reptile in the world! They can grow more than 7 feet long, up to 5 feet wide, and weigh more than 1500 pounds. Did you know the Leatherback is called such because it’s the only sea turtle that doesn’t have a hard shell. As its name implies, the animal has oily, leathery skin that covers a series of bony plates underneath. Unlike other turtles, these Sea Turtles can’t retract their arms, legs or heads into their shells. They’re found as far north as Alaska, to the southernmost tip of New Zealand.