Turtles are like humans who enjoy a variety of food choices. Their diet plan, however, differs from one type to another. There are at least 300 species of this ancient reptile, and their preference in food varies depending on their categorization.
Whether you have a pet turtle or someone who is considering getting one, or plain curious and keen to know the answer to the question – “What do turtles eat?”, this blog aims to bring you enlightenment.
Carnivore, Herbivore or Omnivores?
Depending on their species, some turtles are pure carnivores, while others follow a strict vegetarian diet. But for most turtles, they are omnivores who enjoy eating both animals and plants. Turtles do not have teeth; they only use their jaws to cut off their food. That is why the kind of jaw a turtle has for chewing food also affects their preference, especially the food sources available to their environment.
Turtles enjoy the abundance of natural resources they could get in the ocean. Depending on the species of sea turtles, some munch on vegetation underwater like that of seagrasses, seaweeds, sponges, or algae. In comparison, others enjoy being carnivores feeding on shrimp, squid, small fish, cuttlefish, or jellyfish. Some examples are as follow:
Got its name from its relatively flattish shell. It is one of the characteristics which distinguishes it from other turtles. While most sea turtles migrate long distances, flatbacks contain themselves within a smaller range and can only be seen in the coastal waters of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Mainly carnivorous and feeding in shallow waters. Their favorite meals include jellyfish, sea cucumbers, and even soft corals. They target soft-bodied preys.
Their beaks are shaped like that of bird prey. That is why these turtles are named after the characteristics of their bills: curved and pointed.
These are omnivorous types of turtles. Their uniquely shaped beak helps them cut through soft corals, anemones, and sea sponges. Of course, they always prefer sea sponges; however, they also munch on mollusks, tunicates, sea urchins, small fish, crustaceans, and even jellyfish.
Green Sea Turtles
You might wonder, but green sea turtles did not get their name from the color of their skin or shell; rather, their greenish fat is the very reason why they are labeled as such. The green sea turtle is the largest species of hard-shelled turtles, which incidentally ranks the second largest in all the sea turtle species.
It enjoys the vegetation underwater as they grow old. These are herbivores that prefer to eat sea grasses, seaweeds, and algae. However, they are considered omnivorous during their early life as green turtle hatchlings eat jellyfish, crabs, shrimp, and snails.
Refer to freshwater turtles that we can see in the wild. They inhabit various freshwater habitats, from all sorts of wetlands to lakes, streams, and rivers. But most prefer shallow waters with slow currents, soft mud at the bottom where aquatic vegetation is also present that they utilize as their hide spot.
Some eat more protein than others, and some are more vegetarian. They can choose from a wide diversity of aquatic plants, snails, worms, fallen fruits, insects and larvae, small mussels, crayfish, other small fishes, and even the injured or dead ones in the wild. For reference, below are some examples:
Spend a substantial amount of time basking under the heat of the sun to maintain their body temperatures through thermoregulation (ability to keep its body temperature within certain parameters, despite the change in environment temperature)
This type of turtle forages for food not just in waters but also on land. They are considered omnivores as they eat both plants and small animals. They feed on ripe fruits, mushrooms, berries, insects, slugs, small fish, snails, and tadpoles.
Known for their smooth, broad, and low dark-colored upper shell, also referred to as carapace, whose color ranges from bluish-black to pit black with several tiny yellow round spots, hence the name. The round spot pattern extends from head to neck and down to other limbs.
Spotted turtles feed on soft aquatic plants, algae, water lily seeds, mollusks, worms, crustaceans, insects, and larvae. They even eat eggs of other amphibians.
Or land turtles, are types of turtles that spend time on dry land and can also be usually found in or near shallow waters. They also consume various foods, from grubs, snails, earthworms, caterpillars, and beetles to grasses, mushrooms, flowers, fruits, and other berries. Some examples are as follows:
Box Turtles are distinguished by its high domed carapace (upper part) and hinged plastron (lower part of the shell), which allows it to hide under the shade of its shells completely. Most box turtles are brown and tan colored, covered with scars, lines, bars, and other spots.
These turtles are omnivorous and are not choosy when it comes to food as they munch almost anything, including berries, roots, insects, eggs, flowers, and small amphibians. However, younger box turtles tend to be more carnivores than adults.
These belong to the ancient class of reptiles. They can live for a very long time (over 100 years) and can live almost anywhere if it’s warm enough to breed. Their shells are very complex, composed of 60 interconnected bones, and its color indicates that it originates and lives in a warm country.
Like many other species of turtle, Tortoises enjoy a variety of plant-based foods. They eat fresh vegetables like kale, mustard, and collard greens. They can also tolerate eating yellow bell peppers, sweet potato, cauliflower, or squash. Other than vegetables, Tortoises also enjoy eating fruits like berries, melons, oranges, kiwi, etc.
Regardless of its classification or categorization, we now know that turtles enjoy a selection of food choices. Whether they live on sea waters, swamps, lakes, or any other form of freshwater, or even on drylands, all kinds of turtles rely on whatever is available in the environment they are in.
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