Turtles & Tortoises For Dummies
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Turtles and tortoises are not your run-of-the-mill pets, and if you choose to add a chelonian (a turtle or tortoise) to your family, you may want to broaden your vocabulary beyond what you need when talking about more, uh, ordinary pets. The terms here are some of the words used in reference to turtles and tortoises:

  • Aquatic turtle: A turtle that spends all or the majority of its time in the water

  • Basking site or basking area: An area for a turtle or tortoise to absorb warmth from sunshine or another heat source

  • Brackish water: Fresh water that receives some salt water from the ocean during high tides, making it more salty than fresh

  • Carapace: The top shell covering the back

  • Carnivore: A meat eater

  • Carrion: Decaying flesh that may be used for food

  • Chelonians: All turtles and tortoises

  • Clutch: A nest of eggs

  • Estivates: Hibernates in summer

  • Hatchlings: Baby turtles or tortoises

  • Herbivore: A plant eater

  • Keel: A ridge in the carapace, usually from front to rear so that it is over or parallels the spine

  • Omnivore: Eats both meat and plants

  • Plastron: The lower shell

  • Scute: A single surface section of the shell; each shell is made up of many scutes with underlying skeletal bone

  • Semi-aquatic turtle: A turtle that spends about half of its time in the water and half of its time on land

  • Semi-terrestrial turtle: A turtle that spends most of its time on land but also goes into the water once in a while

  • Side-necked turtle: When this type of turtle shelters its head, the neck folds to the side but does not disappear into the shell

  • Terrarium: An aquarium or cage that contains live plants, a higher humidity, and no swimming water

  • Terrestrial turtle: A turtle that lives on land but bathes or soaks in water or goes into the water to escape predators

  • Tortoise: A land-based chelonian that can’t swim and only goes into shallow water to drink or soak; a tortoise never voluntarily enters water over its head

  • Vent: Equivalent to an anal opening

  • Vivarium: An aquarium divided into two sections — one for water and one for land

About This Article

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About the book author:

Liz Palika is an award-winning writer of 45 books on pets. She has written articles for Newsweek and all the major pet publications, including Reptiles magazine.

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