Speed of a Turtle or Tortoise

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
Turtles. New York: National Geographic, 1999. as cited by D. Wood in electronic mail. "New born hatchling turtles on average swim about 25 miles in 30 hours." 0.37 m/s
(turtle-hatchling, swimming)
"The average turtle swims at a pace of 10 to 12 mph and walks at 3 to 4 mph." 4–5 m/s
(turtle, swimming)

1–2 m/s
(turtle, swimming)
"The tortoises of the genus Gopherus have been clocked at rates of 0.21 to 0.48 km (0.13 to 0.30 miles) per hour." 0.058–0.133 m/s
(tortoise, walking)
"The rate on land of a normally aquatic cooter has been recorded at 1.7 kph (1.07 mph)." 0.47 m/s
(turtle, walking)
Myles. The Sea Turtle. DeSoto Trail Elementary School. "There are seven different species of sea turtles and the most known sea turtle is the green sea turtle. It can swim up to 20 miles per hour." 9 m/s
(turtle, swimming)
Encyclopedia Britannica. CD-ROM. Britannica Publishing: 1998. "The marine green turtle has been known to swim 480 km (300 miles) in 10 days." 0.55 m/s
(turtle, swimming)
McFarlan, Donald. Guinness Book of Records 1992. New York: Guinness, 1991. "The fastest speed claimed and proven by any reptile is 22 mph by a frightened pacific leatherback." 9.8 m/s
(turtle, swimming)
"In a speed test carried out in the Seychelles a male giant tortoise could only cover 15 feet in 43.5 sec (0.23 mph) despite the enticement of a female." 0.11 m/s
(tortoise, walking)
Freshwater Turtles. National Wildlife. October/November 1998 "One adult wood turtle covered a distance of 450 feet in 25 minutes, a rate of 0.2 miles per hour. A migrating bog turtle, on the other hand, traveled just 56 feet in a day and took two weeks to cross a meadow 600 feet wide." 0.09 m/s
(turtle, walking)

0.0002 m/s
(turtle, walking)
Cousteau, Jaques. The Ocean World. New York: Abradale, 1979. "10 knots" 5 m/s
(turtle, swimming)

Turtles and tortoises are reptiles from the order Chelonia. Each is protected by an armor-like shell and also by its strong, beaked, toothless jaws. They are found throughout most of the temperate and tropical worlds. Turtles are the oldest living group of reptiles, dating back to the time of the earliest dinosaurs. But the safety of the shell is not guaranteed because many predators can overpower them. As a result, they must be quick to escape harm.

In New Jersey researchers examined 53 living wood turtles that had been injured previously by predators. About 27 of them were missing limbs, while 11 others were mutilated carapaces (the upper shell of the turtle). However, turtles are sometimes said to live for years after being injured. Wood turtles are considered overland speed demons compared to the other species. An adult wood turtle was able to cover a distance of 450 feet (140 m) in 25 minutes, a rate of 0.2 miles per hour (0.091 m/s). A bog turtle, was the opposite of the wood turtle, and traveled only 56 feet (17 m) in one day. It took this same bog turtle two weeks to traverse a 600 foot wide (200 m) meadow.

The average turtle swims at a pace of 10 to 12 mph (4 to 5 m/s) and walks at 3 to 4 mph (1 to 2 m/s). Newborn hatchling turtles swim about 25 miles (40 km) in 30 hours on average. Female turtles usually swim at a faster pace than that of their babies or the male turtle in order to protect their young from predators. The marine green turtle (Chelonia mydas) has been known to swim 300 miles (480 km) in 10 days. Soft-shell turtles (Trionychidae) are able to move their limbs at rates comparable to that in birds and mammals. They are powerful swimmers and run on land with startling speeds. Soft-shell turtles are more active and mobile and are able to strike with the speed of a snake and the agility of a mammal. There are seven different species of sea turtles, but the most known turtle is the green sea turtle. It has the ability to swim up to 20 mph (9 m/s). The fastest speed of any reptile was found to be 22 mph (9.8 m/s) in the case of a frightened pacific leatherback turtle.

Generally, turtles move faster than tortoises, even on land. Tortoises of the genus Gopherus have been clocked at rates 0.13 to 0.30 mph (0.05 to 0.13 m/s). This is compared to the rate on land of a normally aquatic cooter (Pseudemys floridana) which has been recorded at 1.07 mph (0.47 m/s). In a speed test carried out in the Seychelles a male giant tortoise could only cover 15 feet (4.6 m) in 43.5 seconds despite the enticement of a female. Land tortoises travel slowly but can sometimes manage human walking speeds. Even when they hurry, they don't go very fast. It would take a typical tortoise one hour to walk a city block.

The turtles' use of it's flippers as paddlers for swimming is amazing. The most efficient undersea paddlers are the giant sea turtles. Clumsy and almost helpless on land (they have to come ashore to lay their eggs) they are fast migrators in the sea and can reach speeds of 10 knots and are very agile.

Most turtles can not survive in really cold temperatures and the body temperature of the turtle is that of the outside air or water. A cold environment could cause the animal's life processes to slow down to the point where it is incapable of motion.

In conclusion, although the turtle is generally a slow moving reptile, it is a misconception that it is the slowest reptile in existence.

Rachel Shweky -- 1999

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
Doherty, James G. Natural History. March 1974. as cited in Speed of Animals. InfoPlease Kid's Almanac. "Giant Tortoise 0.17 mph" 0.076 m/s

Editor's Supplement -- 1999


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