Do Turtles Mate? (How, When, How Long, What Age, Etc.)

Image of turtles mating

Mating is a natural behavior of living organisms. Once the organisms mature, they tend to seek mates. So, do turtles mate?

Yes, turtles do mate. The male turtle climbs on the female turtle’s back for mating. Once the male turtle mounts on the female, they twist their legs. The male turtle then inseminates by passing the semen into the female’s cloaca. Aquatic turtles mate underwater while the land turtles mate on land.

Every turtle species has its unique way of wooing the female and mating. So, let’s understand the turtle mating process in detail.

How Do Turtles Mate In The Water?

In aquatic turtle species, the male and female turtles come face to face under the water before mating. The female turtle then indicates to the male turtle if she is ready to mate. If ready, the male turtle climbs on the female’s back while she is swimming horizontally in the water.

Male turtles have long claws on their front flippers, which they use to hook on the leading edge of the female turtle’s shell. The male turtle flutters his clawed front legs around the female turtle’s face and strokes the sides of her head.

Once the male turtle mounts on the female from behind, they twist their legs together. The male turtle then inseminates by passing the semen into the female’s cloaca. Copulation takes place either on the surface or underwater.

Mating is not easy for female sea turtles. The female turtle needs to support herself, her mate’s weight, and swim in between to the surface for breathing. Mating becomes more difficult when several males compete for a single female as she then faces the risk of getting drowned.

After the pair separates, the male turtle continues mating with the other sea turtles. However, the female turtle stops mating once she has enough sperm to fertilize her clutches for the season.

Recommended Further Reading:

How Do Turtles Mate On The Land?

Mating occurs in the spring season for land turtles, usually just after the hibernation period. For land turtles like box turtles, reproduction maturity is reached at the age of 5 to 10 years.

The male tries to woo the female turtle for mating. The male turtle chases the female and bites on her head, neck, and edge of her shell. Sometimes, he may even roll her over on her back.

Once the male turtle gets permission from the female, he mounts on the female turtle and hooks its toes into the female’s shell.

During the mating process, sometimes the male turtles fall on their back. It is highly dangerous and can even cause their death if they cannot flip over immediately.

When Do Turtles Mate?

In the wild, turtles mate when the day length and temperatures gradually increase. Therefore, the spring season is the optimum time for wild turtles to mate. The mating season starts from March and continues till June for the common pond turtles, including the red-eared sliders.

On the other hand, pet turtles mate at any time of the year since they stay indoors in a climate-controlled environment. As a result, they are not exposed to nature’s solid trigger.

Snapping turtles mate anytime from April to October. Their courtship is rarely visible as mating takes place under the water. The female snapping turtle may remain fertile for up to 3 years from single insemination.

Sea turtles’ mating season occurs when the day length and local temperatures begin to rise. It’s because the incubation temperature plays a role in determining the hatchling’s gender. High incubation temperatures usually produce females.

For land turtles like box turtles, the mating season starts in April and continues till October. Their nesting occurs between May through July.

What Age Do Turtles Mate?

Turtles start showing mating behavior once they reach their maturity age. Male turtles reach reproduction maturity before females. 

Pet water turtles like male red-eared sliders reach reproduction maturity at an early age of around 2 to 4 years. In contrast, female red-eared sliders become mature at around 3 to 5 years of age.

On the contrary, box turtles take a little longer than the red-eared sliders. Box turtles take at least five years before they reach maturity.

Related Further Reading:

How Long Do Turtles Mate?

The mating ritual of turtles can take several hours or even days until the female turtle permits the male turtle. After getting permission, the male turtle gets on top of the female turtle’s shell. He then inserts his legs through the female’s shell.

During mating, the male turtle tries to hang on to the female turtle’s shell to prevent other male turtles from mating with his partner. Several males can compete to mate with one female turtle at the same time.

Other male turtles aggressively bite the tail and flippers of the male turtle that’s mating so that he will let go of the female turtle.

How To Make Turtles Mate?

You can help the turtles mate by providing them suitable environment. For that, you need to provide plenty of space for your turtles to move around freely. Also, you can make provision for a nesting area where female turtles can lay their eggs.

Another thing to remember is that the female turtles need to be more than the males. It’s because mature male turtles can tax out the female turtles during mating. It can even lead to stress, impacting the female turtle’s health.

Also, you need to keep a close eye on the male turtles as they can fight amongst themselves over a female turtle. Once the mating ritual is over, always separate the males, or else they will constantly bug the females.

If you have several different turtle species, make it a point to separate the smaller ones from the larger turtle species during mating. This is because some turtles can become more aggressive and can bite the head of smaller breeds.

Can Different Types Of Turtles Mate?

Red-eared sliders are abundant and invasive all over the world. Other turtles are threatened native species. As per this study, the invasive and native species often mate with each other, resulting in offspring.

Also, a red-eared slider can probably mate with a painted turtle. It can mainly happen in the wild where both the species live together, such as parts of the American Northeast and Southeast. However, such cases are not heard of often.

Besides, if different turtle species interbreed, the chances of their offspring living a long life are minimal due to genetic disorders.

Related Further Reading:

Can Turtles Mate With Tortoises?

Turtles and tortoises look similar. They even share some standard scientific classifications. Hence, many people have the misconception that they can mate and create viable offspring.

However, what people don’t realize is that turtles and tortoises are genetically incompatible to mate. Even with scientific intervention, if they both mate, the offspring will not be healthy. It will have significant health problems and may not survive for long.

Given below are three main reasons why turtles and tortoises can’t mate.

1. Biological differences.

Turtles fall under the class Reptilia (reptiles), and the order is Testudines. Tortoises, just like turtles, also fall under the class Reptilia and Testudines order.

Although the class and order of turtles and tortoises are the same, turtles break down into their own families and are separate from the tortoise family. Hence, they run into issues as far as mating is concerned between the two.

Organisms from the same species can mate and produce fertile offspring. However, since turtles and tortoises don’t even belong to the same family, scientifically, they can’t mate. Also, the species and genes are different, and hence turtles and tortoises can’t mate.

2. A vast difference in their habitats.

Turtles and tortoises live in vastly different habitats. They have to deal with the bacteria and diseases in their respective environments. Hence, turtles and tortoises get resistant to certain bacteria on their bodies as per their environmental conditions.

Since turtles and tortoises live in different environments, they don’t have the same immunities. Turtles can be more immune to a particular bacterium that is present in their environment. The same bacterium that’s not present in the tortoise’s environment can cause them serious health issues.

Hence, mating between turtles and tortoises is not safe.

Interesting Further Reading:

3. Mating rituals differ.

Turtles and tortoises follow different mating rituals. Moreover, the mating rituals even differ among different species of turtles and tortoises.

Turtles are mainly water creatures, and hence their mating occurs underwater. Their mating includes swimming and spending time underwater. During mating, the male turtle climbs on the female turtle’s back while she is still in the water.

On the other hand, tortoises have a bit of rough courtship. The male tortoise nips at the female tortoise’s legs and carapace until she agrees to mate.

Since tortoises mainly live on the land, their mating occurs on the land, unlike the aquatic turtles that mate underwater.

References