iPhoneOgraphy – 15 Jun 2016 (Day 167/366)
Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines (or Chelonii) characterized by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs and acting as a shield. “Turtle” may refer to the order as a whole (American English) or to fresh-water and sea-dwelling testudines (British English).
The order Testudines includes both extant (living) and extinct species. The earliest known members of this group date from 157 million years ago, making turtles one of the oldest reptile groups and a more ancient group than snakes or crocodilians. Of the 327 known species alive today, some are highly endangered.
Turtles are ectotherms—their internal temperature varies according to the ambient environment, commonly called cold-blooded. However, because of their high metabolic rate, leatherback sea turtles have a body temperature that is noticeably higher than that of the surrounding water.
Turtles are classified as amniotes, along with other reptiles, birds, and mammals. Like other amniotes, turtles breathe air and do not lay eggs underwater, although many species live in or around water.
Turtles are thought to have exceptional night vision due to the unusually large number of rod cells in their retinas. Turtles have color vision with a wealth of cone subtypes with sensitivities ranging from the near ultraviolet (UV A) to red. Some land turtles have very poor pursuit movement abilities, which are normally found only in predators that hunt quick-moving prey, but carnivorous turtles are able to move their heads quickly to snap.
It has been reported that wood turtles are better than white rats at learning to navigate mazes. Case studies exist of turtles playing. They do however have a very low encephalization quotient (relative brain to body mass), their hard shells enable them to live without fast reflexes and elaborate predator avoidance strategies. In the laboratory, turtles (Pseudemys nelsoni) can learn novel operant tasks and have demonstrated a long-term memory of at least 7.5 months.