Tortoises and turtles are reptiles. They are able to survive both on land and in water.
They were one of the early creatures to make the evolutionary shift from living in water to also living on land. A big shift.
Tortoise Turtle – Difference
The major difference between a turtle and a tortoise is that turtles mostly live in water while tortoises mostly live on land. Some of the other differences being,
|Shell||Dome shaped shells||Flat shells|
|Feet||Bent legs and short feet||Webbed feet with long claws|
|Hatchlings||Hatchlings move to mother’s burrow from their nest soon after birth||Hatchlings stay in their next on their own for 3 to 4 months|
|Life span||80-150 years||20-40 years|
Tortoise legends across the world
There are numerous legends associated with tortoises across many civilizations.
In the sequence of Dasavatara, the 10 incarnations of Divinity Vishnu, Kurma Avatara, the tortoise incarnation, is the second Avatara, incarnation of the Divinity Vishnu. The first in the 10 incarnations was Matsya, the Fish, which can live only in water. The second is Kurma, a tortoise which can live both on land and water, representing the evolutionary leap.
Vishnu takes the form of a tortoise and supports the hill on His back during the churning of the oceans, Samudra Manthan by the Deva and Asura.
Sri Kurmam Temple
There is a temple in Srikakulam district of coastal Andhra Pradesh dedicated to this Kurma Avatara of Vishnu. The temple is called Sri Kurmam. The idol in the temple is not a sculpture designed by man, but a fossil of a real tortoise.
Tortoises and Tectonic plates
Indian geological texts also describe the earth as being supported by 8 tortoises.
Here, the analogy of the tortoise stands for the 8 solid tectonic plates on the earth’s crust, over the molten core of the earth, which are constantly moving but very slowly, just like a turtle and its hard shell which covers the soft animal inside.
The architectural representation of this turtle legend can be seen in the old archaeological sites of central Java in Indonesia and the adjoining Bali islands too.
There is a similar turtle legend that is explicitly expressed in the ancient American legends too, where a turtle dives to the bottom of the ocean to bring back mud to create the earth.
Thus, we see that turtles have been revered across civilizations from time immemorial.
Charles Darwin on his study of various life forms, conducted his research on the famous Galapagos tortoise of Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean that live for over 100 years.
World Turtle Day
World Turtle Day is observed every year on May 23rd to raise awareness on turtles, tortoises, and their protection.
On this day, animal lovers and organizations come together and organize events around turtles and tortoises.
Caring for Turtles
Turtles might not be favourites of people, like dogs, but it is vitally important that we care for this species, one of the ancient creatures of our planet.
Need to protect Turtles
This Turtle’s day, let us take steps to protect this endangered species, by saving the turtle hatchings on the coasts.