Turtles and tortoises live longer than most of the members of the reptile family. Researchers have a difficult time determining the lifespans of turtles because humans do not live long enough to find out. However, this did not stop them to continue looking for answers.
How Long Do Turtles Live in the Wild?
How long can a sea turtle live? Generally, sea turtle lifespan is around 30–50 years. Experts made approximate estimations of their longevity by observing them in the wild. However, these efforts were not enough since these reptiles are migratory marine species.
Recently, researchers found ways to predict sea turtle lifespans by using their DNA. The combination of the old and new studies paved the way for a clearer picture of how long turtles can live.
Here are the life expectancies of different sea turtle species:
- Flatback Turtle Lifespan: 50 years
- Green Turtle Lifespan: 80 years
- Hawksbill Turtle Lifespan: 50 years
- Kemp’s Ridley Turtle Lifespan: 50 years
- Leatherback Turtle Lifespan: 90 years
- Loggerhead Turtle Lifespan: 60 years
- Olive Ridley Turtle Lifespan: 50 years
What About Other Turtle Species?
Red-eared Sliders can live up to 30–35 years. Painted Turtle lifespan is much longer and runs from 35–40 years. On the other hand, Box Turtles and Giant Tortoises can live for at least a century. Some were even believed to exist for more than 200 years.
Another turtle species blessed with a long lifespan is the Yangtze Softshell Turtle. On average, it can live for 90–100 years. The oldest Yangtze Softshell Turtle to be ever recorded is thought to be around 500 years old.
How Long Do Turtles Live in Captivity?
Let us not forget pet turtles when looking for the answers to the question: “How long do turtles live?” They have a life expectancy of 20–30 years. If properly cared for, pet turtles can live longer and reach the ripe age of 40–60.
Why Do Sea Turtles Live So Long?
Experts have many theories as to why sea turtles live longer than most animals. Lori Neumann Lee, an assistant professor at Arkansas State University who studies turtles and other reptiles, says it is attributed to evolutionary and biological factors.
1. Slow Metabolism
Metabolism is dubbed the “fire of life.” The slower it occurs, the longer the animal lives. Turtles have a slow metabolism, preventing them from aging at the same rate as birds and mammals.
It allows them to live without food or water for long periods, increasing their chances of survival, especially in the wild.
2. Healthy Diet and Lifestyle
The longest-living tortoise known as the Galapagos Giant follows a vegetarian diet of fresh greens that is free from fat and cholesterol.
Moreover, the Galapagos Giant’s docile nature keeps him out of stress and trouble, which might also be the reason for his prolonged lifespan.
3. Evolutionary Adaptation
Wild turtles are often hunted by different predators such as sharks and killer whales. As a way to save themselves from getting wiped out, the entire species’ lifespan gradually evolved, allowing them to live longer.
It provides them with more opportunities to breed and produce offspring.
Although a sea turtle’s lifespan is longer compared to other animals, it is easily snuffed out by many dangers. Predation, illegal poaching, and water pollution are some of the common causes why many species of turtles are endangered.
How Can You Protect Sea Turtles?
Now that we know the answer to “How long do turtles live?” and the hazards threatening their long lifespan, it is time to be proactive and protect them from these dangers. Here are the simplest things you can do to save sea turtles:
- Avoid throwing your trash on the beach, such as plastic bags, since sea turtles might ingest or get trapped in them. If possible, volunteer for beach clean-up to help minimise the amount of garbage floating around in the sea.
- Turn off any lights near the beach. Baby sea turtles might confuse them for moonlight, which helps them find their way to the ocean. Artificial lights can lead them to dangerous areas or predators.
- Do not light any campfires during hatching season. Again, baby sea turtles are drawn to light. They may accidentally walk into the campfire instead of the sea.
Since hatching season varies from place to place, make sure to do your research and keep yourself updated about it.
How Can You Make Pet Turtles Live Longer?
Pet turtles are not exposed to the dangers their wild counterparts go through. However, their life expectancy can be negatively affected if they are poorly looked after. Here are some important pointers to keep in mind when caring for pet turtles:
- Set the ideal turtle tank temperature. Turtles cannot regulate their body temperature and cannot tolerate the cold. So make sure your pet’s enclosure has a temperature of around 75–82°F.
- When it comes to diet, let your pet turtle eat a combination of commercial turtle food and fresh greens such as romaine lettuce. Treats such as fruits, earthworms, and shrimp should only be occasional additions to their meals.
- A turtle tank should have a basking area and a shelter with UVA and UVB ultraviolet light sources. These provide vitamin D, which your pet turtle needs to keep his shell strong and durable.
- Mind what type of water your pet turtle is swimming in. Avoid using hard water with high concentrations of nitrate, which can potentially cause poisoning. Use only filtered water for your pet’s swimming and drinking area. Consider installing a water filter in the tank to prevent nitrate build-up.