When compared to other animals, turtles take a substantially long time to grow. They experience indeterminate growth, which is growth that persists throughout life. Different turtles have different growth rates depending on the species, age, and environment of the individual turtle. The life cycle begins with the hatching of an egg, then a very rapid growth, followed by sexual reproduction and a very long life span.
The average turtle growth rates are way overboard, considering the average human reaches teenage years with full sexual maturity, and some turtles can take twice the time to grow! The growth of a turtle is also affected by the nutrition and warmth it gets. Turtles that have a slow, steady growth grow to be healthy; otherwise, they experience shell deformities due to damaged kidneys.
How Fast Do Baby Turtles Grow?
As mentioned, different turtles species have different growth rates; thus, smaller species take longer to grow than larger species. The growth rates of turtles are unlikely to remain constant across a range of body sizes. Turtle hatchlings generally have the same size, but there is a variation in that some grow only to a few ounces while others grow to hundreds of pounds. The gigantic hawksbill sea turtle has an average growth rate of about four inches a year. Juvenile red-eared sliders, on the other hand, grow at a rate of half an inch annually.
The Growth of a Baby Turtle
Generally, turtles have a prolonged growth rate, but time doesn’t significantly affect their bodies. A young turtle has similar organs to those of an old turtle as turtles’ body size and fecundity are correlated. Hawksbill turtles have a faster growth rate compared to captive green sea turtles. Turtles continue to grow gradually through their lives, which hinders them from aging as birds and mammals do. They have a slow metabolism, making it possible for them to survive prolonged periods of harsh climates even without constant food and water.
Environment as a Factor Affecting the Growth of Turtles
As turtles are cold-blooded, they tend to take up the temperature of their environment and their surroundings. Turtles in cold climate hibernate during winter to survive the cold, affecting their growth rates compared to those in warmer environments. Turtles have increased growth rates when they are in optimal environmental conditions. Turtles that grow in a warmed pond have a double growth rate than those in an unheated pool, with all other geographical factors staying constant.
Nutrition and diet
Different nutrition plans and diets affect the growth rates of turtles. Some turtles are herbivores, some are carnivores, others are omnivores, and there are those turtles whose nutrition changes with their growth. Herbivores feed on plants, carnivores on animals, and the omnivores eat both plants and animals. The green sea turtle’s diet changes as it ages, for instance, the diet is altered from a protein-rich carnivore to a vitamin-fused herbivore. The food change in developing sea turtles indicates diet as a factor for growth in turtles. A good nutrition diet ensures that a turtle grows at an average rate and with no stunted growth. A young turtle needs protein such as earthworms and cooked chicken, but the diet should be adjusted to incorporate fresh and dark green vegetables when the turtle becomes an adult.
Growth of turtles with age
As a turtle ages, the growth rate slows down because of the change in energy sources’ designation for specific functions. This is what slows down an old turtle’s growth rate. As the turtle gets bigger, you should channel more food because it matures and healthy to keep off predators. The turtle tends to have a higher growth rate when they are younger. The energy gets dedicated less towards growth and more towards its overall health and reproductive functions as the turtle grows.
The Growth Cycle of a Turtle
Turtles are very versatile reptiles, enabling them to live both in water and on land. Whether the turtle lives in the desert,
in the sea, or cold climates, the life cycle is the same as any other reptile species; egg stage, hatching, and adult stages. All turtles have to go through these three stages, after which they are considered adults. Depending on the species of the turtle and the environmental conditions, the growth cycle of a turtle entails the following;
All turtles begin as eggs. Some sea turtles lay their eggs in water but most dig holes in the mud or the sand. They then deposit their eggs in clutches of a hundred and leave them to hatch. Some female turtles carry their fertilized eggs with them for some time, mostly for a year or more, then lay them little by little over time. They then bury the holes and go since they do not remain near the eggs to protect them. The eggshell is pliable and leathery, so it requires the baby turtle to use an “egg tooth,” a profusion on the nose, to break free and emerge when ready.
Hatching of the Egg
The next stage of a turtle’s growth cycle is the hatching of the egg, and it takes two to three months. Neither parent is involved in rearing the hatchlings. The temperature of the egg during the middle period of hatching determines the sex of the turtle. A female turtle is hatched when it is hot during this stage, mostly, and if the temperatures are low, then the turtles hatched are primarily male.
Young turtles scramble to safety and to feed once they are hatched. Hovering birds threaten the safety of newly hatched sea turtles, so they have to reach the sea before they are swooped up and eaten! This is why there are very few mature turtles, even though up to 80 eggs are hatched at a time. Sea turtles can be hatched in convenient places such as a swampy area for land-based and freshwater turtles and the beach for sea turtles.
When you look at the shell’s health, you can tell if a turtle is growing. By the first birthday, a turtle can have a complete shell. As a turtle grows, its shell begins to harden, which provides it with more protection. The freshwater and land-based turtles tend to withdraw into their shells to protect themselves against predators, but sea turtles’ shells are relatively small for their flickers and heads to withdraw into. A healthy shell is firm to the touch and free of pitting and lumps, while an unhealthy one can have lesions, an indication that your turtle needs a vet appointment.
Turtles overgrow when they are young, but the growth rate reduces upon reaching sexual maturity. With each growing year, a ring is added to a turtle’s shell, so it is relatively easy to tell a turtle’s age by looking at its shell. Once fully grown, turtles have fewer predators and grow to be even a hundred years old.
Sea turtles spend their first years in the ocean, and most of them are omnivores during these early stages. Those on land survive by digging holes in the sand to keep cool or using their shells to protect them from predators and prevent drying out. As turtles grow, they can live either in water or on land. Turtles use their lungs mostly to breathe, so even if they can stay underwater for long periods, they have to emerge for air at some point. Adult turtles are usually between five inches long such as the bog turtle, which is a very endangered species, to over 6 feet long like the leatherback sea turtle. This species grows to weigh 1400 lbs.
The Growth of Red-Eared Sliders
These turtles are considered the best to have as pets and the most common pet turtles. The red-eared sliders are the turtles you see swimming around in tanks at your local pet shop. Also known as the Singaporean turtle, it is most famous for its small size and good temperament. The growth rate of red-eared sliders is greatly affected by the food quantity they consume and food availability. These turtles are considered to be fully mature upon reaching a certain size, not a specific age. Male red-eared sliders are considered sexually mature when their shell comes 4 inches long, usually at 2-5 years, depending on the nutrition. A female turtle must be 6 inches and above to reach sexual maturity, which occurs between the ages of five to seven. A young red-eared slider is usually 4 inches long or less, but an adult grows to be 11 inches or longer.
Turtles have a generally long life span, which means that they are a lifetime responsibility should you decide to get one as a pet. It is easy to care for and look after turtles when they are provided with adequate growth conditions. Turtles do not need everyday maintenance of grooming, feeding, walking, and petting like cats and dogs do, but they still need attention and care. A turtle is an investment that could stay with your family for generations, so take good care of it if you get one!