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You have heard about “homes on wheels,” but have you seen a mobile home on legs? If you have seen the turtle, also know as a tortoise, you have seen such a home. The turtle’s tough horny shell is both its home and its coat of armor. The shell covers the turtle’s short, broad body above and below. It actually makes up much of the turtle’s skeleton. While most advanced creatures have their skeleton inside the body, the turtle wears its skeleton outside.

The top part of the shell, called the carapace, is really the turtle’s backbone and ribs, joined into a solid mass by many bony plates. The carapace is covered by a layer of horny scales. The bottom shell, called the plastron, is built around the turtle’s breastbone. The carapace and plastron are joined so that there are openings for the turtle’s head, four legs and short tail.

There are land turtles and water turtles. Land turtles are slow and clumsy. They would be easy prey for their enemies, if not for the protection of their shell. The Box Turtle, the most common land turtle in the United States, is typical of its kind. When faced with danger, it draws its head and legs inside its shell, then pulls the plastron up against the carapace and shuts its home tight. By staying right at home, it is safe from almost all natural enemies.


Slow but steady wins the race: Ask your child if he knows the fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare”:

A hare one day ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the Tortoise, who replied, laughing: "Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race." The Hare, believing her assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the Fox should choose the course and fix the goal. On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The Tortoise never stopped for a moment, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The Hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the Tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue.

Land turtles are said to be one the slowest animals, yet in the story it won the race, because it kept on walking slowly but surely. The quick hare, on the other hand, relying on its speed, had decided it had enough time for a nap…

There is a good lesson in this story. For, although it is usually an advantage to do things in a quick and lively way, it is certainly no good to be carelessly hasty. Very often one can accomplish more by doing things slowly but surely. A student who thinks he is smart may often not do as well as the one who is not smart. For the smart one may think he can always catch up, but he may wake up to find that he had lost the race!



Listen to this turtle crawl on the ground

Watch a video of Turtles


Turtles don’t have teeth, but their jaws have horny edges that can cut hard substances.

As cold-blooded creatures, turtles need less energy to live, and can survive by eating once a week or even once a month!

A turtle never knows its parents: All turtles, whether they live on land or in water, lay their eggs in nests dug in the earth. The turtle will then cover her eggs with sand, and depart without ever looking back.

Only one of one thousand water-turtle hatchlings survive to maturity. Animals like skunks and raccoons often follow land and fresh-water turtles to their nests, then sit and wait for the eggs as they are being laid. If they missed the egg-laying, they dig up the eggs and eat them up. When the hatchlings emerge and start crawling towards the ocean, they are often consumed by birds and other animals. In the water they can be attacked by sharks or other big fish.

To make up for the loss of eggs and hatchlings, th Creator has given turtles a long life. Some species of turtles live more than 100 years. A pet turtle could be in a family for generations! During this timespan they can reproduce themselves in sufficient numbers to perpetuate their species. One turtle is known to have lived 250 years!

Not all turtles are small. One species (Leatherback Turtle) can reach 1,800 pounds!

A Box Turtle can readily support a weight 200 times greater than its own; an adult that strong could carry 10 cars on his back!

Parent's Tip: The reason a turtle walks so slowly is because instead of walking with its legs directly underneath it, it extends its legs to the sides. Try it out with your kids - walk with your legs stretched out to the sides, and see if that makes you walk slower!


When turtles are threatened, they either leave the area or protect themselves inside their shells, rather than fighting back. The Torah says, "You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). When someone offends you or hurts you, sometimes it is a good idea to respond with love and end the fight by not fighting back.

According to a report published by Edmund Smith-Asante, fishermen are likely to make better catches in places where turtles are plentiful. This is because turtles eat jellyfish, which drive the fish away. According to the same report, oil extracted from turtles (especially Leatherback) posses medicinal qualities. African natives use the oil to cure asthma and skin rashes among other things.

The Turtle Conservation Fund reports that “turtles are critically important components of the ecosystems they inhabit, often serving as keystone species (a species that has a disproportionate effect on its environment relative to its abundance) and forming complex ecological relationships with other animals and plants. Should turtles perish; the ecosystems that depend on them would be severely damaged as well.”