How to Identify Turtles


Turtles can be highly aquatic (staying in water most of their lives) or semi-aquatic.

You are most likely to see turtles out and about between May and October.

Although active throughout the summer, turtles are most actively crossing roads to reach nests during the first weeks around the last full moon in May and the first full moon in June: the flowering and strawberry moons.

On warm days (where the ambient temperature is greater than 21 degrees Celsius) turtles can be  seen basking.

Sometimes you may be lucky to see turtles swimming in their natural habitats.

Parts of a Turtle

  • The top shell of a turtle is called a carapace
  • The under-shell of a turtle is called a plastron
  • Many turtles have distinct carapace shapes or markings that can be used to identify them. Some turtles have colouring such as yellow-throats or red lines on their necks. Some turtles are very small and don't grow bigger than your hand such as the stink-pot or slightly bigger is the spotted turtle.
  • The triangular or geometric sections on the carapace are called scutes
  • Ridges are found around the carapace
  • It is hard to distinguish the difference between male and female turtles. Some species, such as with the Blanding's turtle have different shaped plastrons. The male Blanding's turtle plastron will be flat, while the female's will be arched. Other species' sexes can be deciphered through the size of their feet/their claws: male painted turtles have larger and longer claws than females.
  • All turtles, except for the Snapping turtle, have large enough plastrons so that they can tuck into their shells and hide from predators. Snapping turtles do not have large pastrons and cannot hide- their only defense then is to bite on land when they are attacked. (In water they can be very gentle).

Turtles Species:

4 Replies to “How to Identify Turtles”

  1. I rescued 2 res from a friend they look just like res but they don’t have red on the sides of their heads? Can they still be red eared sliders?

    1. They can be red eared sliders. Can you send/email a picture? and a picture of their plasteron (under-carriage)?

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