It’s easy to see why turtles are a favourite to spot amongst divers and snorkelers. They are simply adorable in their own unique ways. Turtles have been roaming the earth’s waters for over 150 million years making them one of the oldest creatures on this planet. It’s no wonder why some of them are quite bizarre and prehistoric looking. Here a five weird and wacky turtle species to boggle your mind from “butt breathers” to stone cold killers!
1. Pig Nosed Turtle
The pig nosed turtle definitely proceeds its name with a pig like nose. This unusual looking nose works as a twin-snorkel poking out of the water to breathe whilst the body is fully submerged. It has large webbed flippers, a yellow chin, can grow up to 70cm (27 inches) long and can weigh up to 20kg (44 lbs). They inhabit freshwater rivers, streams and lagoons in the Northern Territory in Australia and parts of southern New Guinea.
Interesting fact: The pig nosed turtle’s paddle-shaped flippers are usually a feature you would see on a marine turtle. This leads researches to believe that their family represents an evolutionary link between freshwater and marine turtles.
2. Spiny Turtle
This little walking pin cushion is born with pointed spines on the end of their outer shell plates and along their spine, making them a tricky meal for predators to swallow. As they get older, the sharp spines begin to round and wear down. The spiny turtle inhabits shallow streams in mountainous rainforests throughout Southeast Asia.
Interesting fact: The spiny turtle’s shape and brown colouring helps them camouflage amongst leafs to help protect them from predators.
3. Leatherback Sea Turtle
The leatherback is the heavyweight champion of all the sea turtles. They are the largest, dive the deepest and travel the farthest. They can grow up to 2.1m (7 foot) and weigh up to 907kgs (2,000 pounds) – now that’s a big turtle! Like the name suggests, rather than sporting a hard shell like other sea turtles, they have a leathery back that is somewhat flexible and rubbery to the touch. They have the widest global distribution of all reptile species and can be found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea.
Interesting fact: These deep divers can reach depths of up to 1,200m (4,000 feet) and stay under water for up to 85 minutes! The only other creatures that can dive that deep are sperm whales, elephant seals and beaked whales.
4. Mary River Turtle
The Mary River turtle looks like he could be a drummer in a 90s punk band rocking a mossy green Mohawk and a double spiked goatee. This little punk can be found in the freshwater of the Mary River in Queensland, Australia.
Interesting fact: The Mary River turtle breathes through its genitals – say what? That’s right, it is one of several species of cloaca-breathing turtles – a turtle that can breathe underwater for up to three days using specialised glands in their reproductive organs. This is how they acquired the nickname “butt-breather”.
5. African helmeted Turtle
Don’t be fooled by his cheeky little grin, this turtle is stone cold killer! The African helmeted turtle is an omnivorous and will eat just about anything. Although they are on the smaller scale only growing to around 20cm (8 inches), they have fine claws that help rip their prey apart. They can be found in stagnant freshwater throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from Ghana in West Africa as far as Cape Town in South Africa. They can also be found in Southern Yemen and Madagascar.
Interesting fact: Similar to the crocodile, the African helmeted turtle has been observed in groups snatching doves that stop at the water’s edge for a drink and dragging them underwater to feast on – sheesh, that’s a turtle you don’t want to mess with!
Learn more about how you can protect these bizarre and amazing creatures by checking out our sustainable guide to snorkelling and diving with turtles.