Turtle & Tortoise Terms

Turtle Terms

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A glossary of turtle and tortoise terminology

  • Amazon swords: A freshwater aquatic plant
  • Anachris: A freshwater weed
  • Anal scutes: The scutes on the rear plastron; can be different shapes for male or female
  • Annuli: Pattern of growth rings on the scutes of tortoises
  • Anterior: Towards the head, the front
  • Antibiotic: A chemical substance derivable from a mold or bacterium that kills microorganisms and cures infections
  • Aquatic: Living in the water
  • Basking: Behavior that allows a cold-blooded animal to absorb warmth from sunshine or another heat source
  • Basking light: A heat lamp where turtles get heat from while basking
  • Beak: The hard outer covering of the jaws
  • Bridges: Sides of the shell connecting the carapace and the plastron
  • Breeder: A person who breeds animals
  • Breeding: The act of reproduction
  • Calcium: Essential element for living organism; needed for good shell growth
  • Carapace: The top part of the shell of a turtle or tortoise
  • Carnivore: An animal or reptile that eats meat
  • Caudal: Pertaining to the tail region
  • Chelonian: Tortoises and turtles
  • CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
  • Cloaca: Chamber near the anal opening where digestive and urinary wastes are excreted and where the reproductive tract is located
  • Clutch: All the legs laid by a female at one time; the equivalent to a litter of puppies
  • Dime store turtle: A nickname that was widely used for red ear sliders
  • Diurnal: Active during the day
  • Ecosystem: A system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their physical environment
  • Ectothermic: Cold-blooded
  • Endangered species: A species present in such small numbers that it is at risk of extinction
  • Epoxy: A thermo-setting resin; used chiefly in strong adhesives, coatings and laminates
  • Estivate: A summer period of inactivity similar to hibernation that can be an animal’s means of surviving in extremely hot and/or dry weather
  • Extinction: No longer in existence
  • False crawl: Where a sea turtle has been disturbed in trying to lay her eggs resulting in no eggs laid
  • Filter: A device containing such a material used to extract impurities from air or water
  • Full spectrum light: A fluorescent light with UVA and UVB rays
    Gestation: In turtles and tortoises, the time between breeding and laying the eggs
  • Gravid: Pregnant
  • Gular: A projection that extends under the head from the plastron. Males use it to flip an opponent.
  • Habitat: The environment in which an animal lives
  • Hatchling: A baby turtle
  • Herbivore: An animal or reptile that eats plants and plant products
  • Herpetoculture: The hobby of keeping and/or breeding reptiles and amphibians
  • Herpetoculturist: Someone who keeps and/or breeds reptiles and amphibians
  • Herpetologist: Scientist or other person studying reptiles and amphibians
  • Herpetology: Scientific study of reptiles and amphibians
  • Hibernation: A period of winter dormancy
  • Hiding place: A place where a turtle can hide from others to escape from stress
  • Hybrid: Offspring resulting from parents of different species or subspecies
  • Incubation: The time that elapses from when an egg is laid to when it hatches
  • Insectivore: An animal or reptile that eats insects
  • Intergrade: An individual that is intermediate in appearance between two related subspecies
  • Keel: A ridge found on the carapace, following the spine, on some turtles and tortoises
  • Keratin: A tough protein found in scutes, beaks and claws, and in human fingernails
  • Melanism: Darkening of coloration
  • Nocturnal: Active at night
  • Omnivore: An animal or reptile that eats a variety of foods, including plants and plant products, insects, and/or meats
  • Oviparous: Egg-laying
  • Plastron: The ventral part (bottom) of the shell of a turtle or tortoise shell
  • Prolapse: A condition where the organs, usually the reproductive organs or intestines, fall outside the body. This is common in turtles, it may cause distress.
  • Prophylactic: Medicine given in hopes of preventing disease
  • Protozoa: Microscopic single-celled creatures that sometimes cause disease
  • Salmonella: A disease that is common with turtles. It is more common to this from raw chicken and uncooked eggs
  • Scute: The covering of the bony segments of the carapace and plastron, often patterned
  • Sea turtle: A marine turtle with large flippers and usually living in tropical and subtropical oceans
  • Semi-aquatic: An animal that lives in the water but also goes out on land
  • Semi-terrestrial: An animal that lives on land but also goes into the water
  • Substrate: The bedding or floor covering in a cage or enclosure
  • Suture: Jagged pattern where shell bones fuse together
  • TED: Turtle Excluder Devices
  • Temperate: Regions of the world where there are well-defined seasonal changes
  • Terrapin: Any of various North American aquatic turtles of the family Emydiolae, especially the genus Malaclemys, which includes the diamondback terrapin
  • Terrarium: Usually a glass (or partially glass) aquarium or cage, for a tropical or temperate climate reptile. It usually contains live plants and has a relatively higher humidity.
  • Terrestrial: Living on land
  • Threatened species: Any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range
  • TIHPA: Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area
  • Tortoise: Usually herbivorous land turtles having clawed elephant-like limbs
  • Tropical: Regions of the world close to the Equator where weather is warmer, usually humid, and there are less well-defined seasonal changes
  • Turtle: Any of various aquatic and land reptiles having a bony shell and flipper-like limbs for swimming
  • UVB light: An ultra violet light that turtles need to help process their vitamins (a necessity)
    Vermiculite: A substance when mixed with equal parts of water is used to aid in the incubation process. (You can find vermiculite at most garden centers)
  • Veterinarian: One skilled in the diseases of cattle or domestic animals
  • Vitamin A deficiency: A lack in vitamin A; a usual symptom is swollen eyes
  • Vitamin D3: A vitamin essential for the assimilation of calcium for strong bones
  • Vitamin K deficiency: A lack in vitamin K or vegetables; a usual symptom is bleeding of the mouth
  • Vivarium: Usually a glass aquarium divided into two sections, one for water and one for a land mass
  • Water hyacinth: A tropical American herb (Eichhornia crassipes) forming dense floating masses in ponds and streams and having large bluish-purple flowers and leafstalks with greatly inflated bases
  • Water lettuce: A plant (Pistia stratiotes) which floats on tropical water, and forms a rosette of spongy, wedge-shaped leaves
  • Watussi dance: A term made up by us (All Turtles webmaster, Spaz, Jade and Buddy the turtles). The quivering motion you see turtles make with their front claws in the other turtle’s face. Turtle flirtation in hopes that they will mate.
About the author

Brock Yates

Brock Yates has a passion for educating people about turtles & tortoises. He manages several websites and has a goal of getting everyone the best and most accurate information to help them with their turtle & tortoise care.

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