May 24, 2023
Since yesterday was World Turtle Day, I thought that we should honor the slow and steady reptile with some fun facts!
Did you know that a tortoise is a turtle, but a turtle isn't a tortoise? A turtle is any shelled reptile belonging to the order Chelonii. The term "tortoise" is more specific, referring to terrestrial turtles.
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Today's Random Fact:
Tortoises inspired the ancient Roman military. During seiges, soldiers would get in testudo formation, named after the Latin word for tortoise. The men formed rows and held shields in front or above them to completely shelter the unit.
Tortoises have an exoskeleton and an endoskeleton. The shell has three main parts: the top carapace, the bottom plastron, and the bridge that fuses these pieces together. You can't see them, but every tortoise has ribs, a collar bone, and a spine inside its shell.
They can't swim, but tortoises can hold their breath for a long time. They're extremely tolerant of carbon dioxide. It's a good thing-tortoises have to empty their lungs before they can go into their shells. You'll often hear them exhale when they're startled and decide to hide.
Tortoises can extract water and nutrients from even the most paltry bites. Their hindgut system works like a double digestive tract, separating water from their waste. When water's scarce, they'll hang on to water waste and simply excrete the urates, which look like white toothpaste.
Like other reptiles, tortoises detect the faintest of smells with the vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson's Organ, on the roof of their mouths. Instead of flicking their tongues, they pump their throats to circulate air through the nose and around the mouth.
In 1968, the Soviet Union's Zond 5 spacecraft was the first to circle the moon and return safely to Earth. The tortoises on board lost about 10 percent of their body weight, but were still ready for a meal when they touched down.