Did you know that the oldest known giant tortoise, Adwaitya, was 255 years old when he died in 2006? In fact, turtles are also one of the oldest living creatures in the animal kingdom. Due to their long lifespan, pet turtles often outlive their owners. And when these animals finally die, it’s usually because of injury, illness, or predation, and not old age. So, do turtles age?
Turtles do not display any signs of aging; they have negligible senescence. Due to their slower metabolism, turtles age slower and lead longer lives compared to other animals. Factors like cellular damage and degradation that produce the signs of aging in animals are also insignificant in turtles.
Let’s talk about this in detail now.
Why Do Turtles Live So Long?
While it’s rare for humans to make it till a hundred years, it is a common phenomenon for turtles. These animals can easily live for fifty years or more under optimal survival conditions.
So, how do they last so long?
Well, it has to do with their biological wiring. Just like the slow pace at which these animals move, everything in their life also progresses very slowly.
The aging process of any animal is linked to its metabolism. Since turtles have very slow metabolism, they take very long to age. Turtles take forever to digest the food they consume. Hence, they produce energy very slowly. It’s why these animals are very slow.
Did you know that many turtles reach reproduction maturity and begin reproducing only after twenty years of age?
Another factor to keep in mind is that lower metabolism means a lower rate of cellular activity and degradation. Since cellular degradation also progresses at a very slow pace in turtles, they age very slowly.
Furthermore, turtles have adaptations that enable them to survive predators and unfavorable environmental conditions. For example, their thick shell protects them from predators and shelters them from the weather.
Similarly, most turtles can retract their head and limbs into their shells. All these factors also contribute to their longevity.
The lifespan of turtles will depend on their environmental conditions. Turtles living in forests, far away from the eyes of humanity, experience optimal conditions for life.
The lack of pollution, easy availability of food, and conducive natural conditions make it easy for them to thrive.
Recommended Further Reading:
- Why Do Turtles Live Long? How To Help Pet Turtles Live Long?
- Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp? [Why, How Long + Which Ones Don’t]
- Do Turtles Sleep? (When, Where, And How Long?)
How Do Turtles Age Compared To Humans?
Under ideal circumstances, turtles enjoy a much longer lifespan than the average human being. We can consider ourselves very fortunate if we ever make it to a hundred years. Meanwhile, a turtle can easily live to be 150 years or even older.
However, this also means that everything in their life progresses at a much slower pace. Turtles would take much longer to reach reproduction maturity and produce offspring compared to humans and other animals.
Most turtles must wait till they are twenty years or more to have any children. However, these animals continue to mate and reproduce even when they are sixty years or older. Meanwhile, the reproductive ability of humans reduces by the age of fifty.
Now, the life expectancy of a turtle would depend on the species. So, we cannot directly convert turtle years into human years.
You will see that even turtles with short lifespans have a higher life expectancy than humans. For instance, take this comparison; for instance, four human years equals one year in a red-eared slider turtle’s life.
How Fast Do Turtles Age?
Most varieties of turtles spend several years in their juvenile stage before they mature into adults. However, a few exceptions, like the female false map turtle, exist. These animals become mature at two to three years.
However, most other varieties of turtles become adults only after ten or twelve years. Larger turtles can take much longer, up to thirty years, to grow into adults.
Interestingly, the aging process of a turtle is closely linked to the quantity and quality of food it receives. It’s like how much time a turtle egg takes to hatch depends on the environmental conditions around it.
When turtles live in a nurturing, protective environment, they can enjoy a drastically long lifespan. However, if they are deprived of nutrition or kept in a high-stress environment, their lifespan will be affected.
In general, the closer a turtle’s living environment is to its natural habitat, the longer it is likely to live.
Related Further Reading:
- Do Turtles Feel Pain? (Signs Of Pain In Turtles)
- Can Turtles Eat Bread? (Why Feeding Bread To Turtles Is Bad)
- Do Turtles Need Sunlight? (Why, How Long, And Which Ones?)
- Can Turtles And Lizards Live Together? (No – Here’s Why?)
How Do You Tell A Turtle’s Age?
There is no accurate method to determine the age of a turtle. Nonetheless, there are two common methods used to estimate a turtle’s age roughly:
- Counting the rings on its shell, and
- Comparing its size with a standard sizing chart.
1. By counting the rings on a turtle’s shell.
The shell of a turtle is divided into scutes. These scutes contain rings. Now, it’s seen that rings develop only at times when the turtle was either well-fed or starving.
So, you can assume that a wide ring forms in summer when the turtle has easy access to food. Meanwhile, a narrow ring forms in winter when food is scarce and the turtle struggles to locate any nutrition.
Based on this theory, we can assume that two rings will form on the turtle’s shell each year.
Now, to find the turtle’s age, you should count all the rings on the shell. Then, divide it by two to get the approximate age of the turtle.
2. Size comparison.
In this method, you simply compare the size of a turtle with the standard size charts developed according to age.
Measure the length of the turtle from nose to tail. Next, find a size chart for the specific species. Finally, match the size of your turtle with the chart to find its approximate age.
However, the main problem with this method is that turtles in captivity grow much faster than those in the wild. Hence, this reading may not be entirely accurate.
What Is The Average Age Of A Turtle?
The average age and lifespan of turtles vary from one species to another. Nevertheless, even turtles with short lifespans usually live for at least thirty years.
In general, a turtle that survives to become an adult should be able to live for a few decades. Now, the larger the turtle, the longer it is likely to live. Similarly, the longer a turtle takes to mature and grow into an adult, the longer it will most likely survive.
Large turtles and sea turtles usually live to be a hundred years or more. So unless they get injured, ill, or killed by predators, they are almost invincible.
Interesting Further Reading:
- Can Turtles Live On Land? Yes and No – Here’s Why…
- Can Turtles Eat Fish Food? (Most Ideal Turtle Diet)
- Do Turtles Sneeze? (Why, When, And What To Do?)
- Can Turtles Swim? (How, How Fast, And Which Turtles Can Swim?)
Do Turtles Get Bigger With Age?
Turtles take much longer than other animals to grow to their adult size. Depending on the species, the age at which the turtle achieves maturity will differ. Some turtles will reach reproduction maturity in five to ten years, while others continue to be in the juvenile stage till twenty to thirty years.
Turtles will generally continue to grow and get bigger till adulthood. However, towards the end of this phase, their rate of growth slows down.
Well-fed turtles and those bred in captivity will usually grow at a faster pace than those in the wild. Some turtles may even continue to grow after reaching reproduction maturity. However, the rate of growth will be very slow and almost negligible.