Do Turtles Kiss? (5 Main Reasons Why They Kiss)

Image of turtles kissing each other

In the animal kingdom, kissing is unusual. Many animals show their affection by licking, touching faces, and hugging. However, some animals use kissing as a means of intraspecific communication. So, do turtles kiss?

Turtles don’t kiss like humans. They only touch each other’s mouth, which looks like a kiss. Turtles kiss at the start of the mating ritual, out of affection, to communicate, display dominance, or during the early stages of their lives. After maturity, kissing reduces and is only done while mating.

Turtles are solitary creatures and don’t usually mingle around. Hence, it comes as a surprise to many pet owners when they find their turtle kissing. So, let’s understand in detail all about turtle kissing.

Why Do Turtles Kiss?

Kissing in animals is an instinctive behavior. Most of the animals rub their noses against each other, which look like they are kissing.

In case of turtles, their mouth comes close to each other and meet. It seems as if they are kissing out of affection. Turtles mostly display such affection during their early years.

Turtles kiss due to numerous reasons. Some of the prominent reasons are listed below.

1. Mating ritual.

One of the primary reasons for turtles to kiss each other is the mating ritual. At the start of mating season, the male turtle tries to woo the female by moving around her and bobbing its head.

The female turtle gets impressed immediately or remains stagnant. If the female turtle remains stagnant, then the male turtle approaches the female and starts to kiss her.

The male turtle usually starts kissing the female’s shell while slowly moving towards her head. If the female turtle allows the male to kiss her lips, it indicates that she is ready to mate.

Other than mating, turtles can kiss each other as a sign of friendly communication.

2. Communication.

Turtles lack the vocal cords that humans possess. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Instead, turtles communicate through touch and sight.

Kissing is one way for turtles to communicate. If you have a couple of pet turtles, you may notice them kissing each other in the enclosure.

Kissing may not necessarily be for mating purposes. Instead, they might simply be communicating with one another.

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3. Display of affection.

Turtles can kiss each other as a sign of affection.

For example, hatchlings and young turtles kiss each other to express their affection. Such a type of kissing is more evident among turtles that are not mature.

Once turtles grow older, they kiss only during mating. Hence, you will not often see older turtles kissing out of affection.

4. Dominance.

Dominance and aggression are observed in the majority of the animals. Turtles are no different.

Apart from biting, turtles also use kissing as a weapon to display aggression and dominance on the timid turtle. They often use a forceful kiss to bully the other turtle.

In captivity, such dominating behavior can be for conquering the basking spot or snatching the food. If you find your pet turtles behaving this way, it’s advisable to separate them as bullying can be stressful to turtles.

5. Reflection.

Turtles kiss their reflection, thinking there’s another turtle on the other side. If you have a glass that reflects their image, you may notice the turtles trying to kiss the image.

Turtles can’t differentiate between a reflection and a real turtle. So they will try to communicate, thinking another turtle is standing on the opposite side.

Alright! Now, do you know that turtles also kiss other turtles of the same gender? It may sound weird, but it’s true. So, let’s understand the reasons behind it.

Do Turtles Kiss Other Turtles Of The Same Gender?

Turtles can kiss other turtles of the same gender for different reasons. Kissing among turtles is harmless and mainly relates to being friendly, affectionate, or establishing social status.

Experts believe that kissing the same gender can be a means of communication. However, this mostly happens among young turtles before they attain maturity.

One of the possible reasons for a turtle to kiss another of the same gender can be the confusion about its own gender. It can lead to kisses being accepted by the other turtle as a sign of affection.

Once turtles reach adulthood, kissing another turtle of the same gender is rare. However, if you see an adult turtle kissing other turtles of the same gender, it may be trying to bully the other timid turtles into submission.

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What Happens When A Turtle Tries To Kiss The Other Turtle?

Turtles can’t talk like humans. Hence, they communicate through their body language and sounds. Kissing is one such way of communicating and showing affection.

When a turtle tries to kiss, the other turtle either accepts the kiss and returns it or rejects it. The reaction of the other turtle is crucial as it determines whether the kiss will be followed by the mating ritual or will it lead to aggression.

Let’s see what happens between the turtles when they kiss each other.

1. Accept the kiss.

When the receiving turtle accepts the kiss, all goes well. Moreover, if the turtles are of the opposite gender, kissing can lead to mating. Otherwise, the other turtle accepts the affection and returns it by giving a kiss.

2. Reject the kiss.

The receiving turtle may not always accept the kiss. If it rejects the advances, it can turn ugly. For example, if the female turtle rejects the kiss, the male turtle starts chasing the female to impress her further.

Also, if a dominant turtle tries to kiss another turtle aggressively, it can reject the kiss and try to flee. The reason some turtles forcibly kiss another turtle is to show dominance over it.

Such aggressive behavior is typical between two turtles of different sizes. The bigger turtle usually bullies the smaller-sized turtle with forceful kisses.

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Is It Safe To Kiss A Pet Turtle?

It’s not safe to kiss a pet turtle. Kissing a pet turtle carries the risk of exposing yourself to the dangerous salmonella bacteria.

A large percentage of reptiles, including turtles, carry salmonella in their intestinal tracts. Therefore, the salmonella bacteria present in the turtle’s body can easily end up on their skin and in their habitat as well.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) sternly warns people to avoid kissing their turtles. All turtles carry salmonella bacteria regardless of their size, even though they look healthy.

One of the biggest risks of kissing a pet turtle is you can’t know if your turtle is carrying the salmonella bacteria in its body. Hence, if you kiss the turtle, chances are you may ingest salmonella into your gastrointestinal tract.

Ingestion of salmonella bacteria can lead to fever, nausea, headache, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. It’s highly dangerous to young children or older people who have a weaker immune system. In worst cases, it can even lead to death.

So, you must always wash your hands properly after coming in contact with any turtle.

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