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Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), the original species of the ninja turtles before their mutation.

A turtle is any reptile from the superorder Chelonia. Their most notorious feature is having a body encased in a bony shell. Although numerous animals, from invertebrates to mammals, have evolved shells, none has an architecture like that of turtles. The turtle shell has a top (carapace) and a bottom (plastron).

The carapace and plastron are bony structures that usually join one another along each side of the body, creating a rigid skeletal box. This box, composed of bone and cartilage, is retained throughout the turtle's life. Because the shell is an integral part of the body, the turtle cannot exit it, nor is the shell shed like the skin of some other reptiles.

Though in some cultures regarded as different kinds of animals altogether, all tortoises and terrapins are species of turtles.

World Turtle Day

The purpose of World Turtle Day, May 23, sponsored yearly since 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue, is to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive.

Turtle Day is celebrated worldwide in a variety of ways, from dressing up as turtles or wearing green summer dresses, to saving turtles caught on highways, to research activities. Turtle Day lesson plans and craft projects encourage teaching about turtles in classrooms.

Trivia

  • In the second volume of the Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic the four Turtles are revealed to be specimens of red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans). This species is also the one used in the 1990 and 2014 live-action films. Red-eared sliders are among the most popular pet turtles and have become a widespread invasive species. While their sale is heavily regulated in many part of the U.S., they are still legally sold in New York City.
  • In the 2012 TV series episode Never Say Xever, Donatello says he suspects he and his brothers might be either diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) or common box turtles (Terrapene carolina).
  • In Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all four of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are explicitly different species of turtles. Leonardo is a red-eared slider; Raphael is an alligator snapping turtle; Donatello is a spiny softshell turtle; and Michelangelo is an ornate box turtle. This resulted in their visibly unique appearances in that show, compared to the more homogenized look of older media.

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