Turtles have sharp vision. They are also good at color discrimination. The Greek tortoise favors yellow flowers.
Turtles are not very bright. Most seem smarter than salamanders but not as smart as cats and dogs. They will learn to discriminate between some colors and some will even work their way through a simple maze, but a monkey would put all of turtledom to shame.
Some large sea turtles and giant land tortoises are noisy, especially when they mate, but by and large most are mute. Noises come not only from their throats but also from the clicking of jaws and the rubbing of legs. Many sounds credited to turtles come from other sources and are reported inaccurately. For an exception to the rule, the big-headed turtle (Platysternon) actually screams when it is picked up.
The records for longevity lend themselves to stretching. For example, there was and perhaps still is on the South Atlantic island of St. Helena a specimen which was reported to have been a pet of Napoleon during his imprisonment there. Later it was determined that Napoleon's turtle had died in 1877 and was replaced by the present claimant in 1882. This claimant's name is Jonathan. Another turtle on St. Helena fell over a cliff in 1918 and died at the age of 120 years plus whatever her age was at the time she arrived from Aldabra.
Another famous turtle was Tui Malila. Legends described it as a giant Galapagos land tortoise which was given by Captain James Cook to the Queen of Tonga in 1773 or 1777. It finally expired on May 19, 1966. If no one played the shell game here, it represents the record for longevity. I advise you not to put any sincere money on a bet about it. Even though this narrative appears in several books, "it ain't necessarily so." Dr. Osmond P. Breland, while he was Professor of Zoology at the University of Texas, wrote that Captain Cook had nothing to do with the transportation of that turtle, and furthermore, it wasn't even native to the Galapagos but rather to Madagascar.
Ordinary American box turtles are believed to live for as long as 123 years, according to Archie Carr in his classic Handbook of Turtles. Also, Rober Conant tells us of an alligator snapping turtle that by 1948 had lived in the famous Philadelphia Zoo for 57 years. You might wish to find out whether it is still alive.
Rules for Raising Turtles
First the rules:
- Don't mix habitats. This makes for compromises, and no one gets a fair shake. An aquarium designed to accommodate a soft-shell (aquatic) and a gopher (terrestrial-desert) will accomplish neither job. The gopher will develop fungus and/or pneumonia from the excess moisture while the soft-shell will be lost to view in the mud.
- Give thought to predatory instincts. A snapper will eventually finish off any creature it can get hold of.
- Don't crowd. What you cannot accomplish in two square feet takes place in nature all the time on an acre (about 43,000 square feet).
Now, the combinations:
- Wood turtles and same-sized frogs usually make it together.
- Box and Greek and gopher turtles are compatible
- Diamondbacks get on nicely with each other, but they must have brackish water, and most other turtles belong in fresh water.
- Snakes and lizards do all right with all but snappers and soft-shells, so long as the habitats are similar.
- Toads and terrestrial turtles are compatible.
- Crocodiles, alligators and caimans should not be kept with any turtles.
- A few fish in an aquatic habitat aquarium are O.K. Guppies can usually safely live in a tank with a common snapping turtle. It might just ignore them if it is well fed. A soft-shell will eat all aquarium fish with gusto
- Waterspiders and water boatmen are O.K. with aquatic turtles, although some will get eaten. Leeches are dangerous parasites.
- Gopher turtles are sometimes found in the company of burrowing owls (yes, owls), but you chances of finding a pet dealer who stocks burring owls for gopher turtle cages are slim.