How long do they live? No one knows. You have to identify when a turtle or tortoise hatched to really know how old it is. To date, researchers know that Blanding’s turtles can live over 75 years [1], but how long they can live is a mystery since they do not display any signs of aging. A 70 year old turtle is no different than a 20 year turtle, although one can argue that a turtle that’s 70 years old probably knows more survival tricks. Lack of aging symptoms or age-related decline is why Blanding’s turtles are considered to be a negligibly senescent species.

Where are they found? Around the Great Lakes region from southern Ontario to New York and Nebraska [2]. Being from Florida, it’s always a treat to read about reptiles that live in the colder regions of the world.

What do they eat? Like humans, Blanding’s turtles are omnivorous and live off of small fish, vegetation, and carrion [2].

What do they look like? They only reach about 11 inches in length at adulthood and they are covered in yellow speckles. If they don’t immediately make you go “awwww” then you’re a monster. See figures 1,2, 3, and 4.

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Figure 1. Blanding’s turtle.
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Figure 2. Blanding’s turtle getting some sun.
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Figure 3. D’awwwww.
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Figure 4. A bunch of Blanding’s turtle babies about to be released. Quadruple awwwww

How do they reproduce? They don’t even reach sexual maturity until between 18 to 22 years old  [2]. Once mature, Blanding’s turtles reproduce by sexual reproduction. They lay eggs in the soil and research indicates that reproductive rate does not decrease with age [1].

How do scientists know how old they are? Currently one must know the hatching date of a turtle to know how old it is. I hope that a non-invasive technique will be implemented very soon so that researchers may estimate the ages of animals with unknown hatch dates. This is my one shout out to Dr. Neil Copes – perhaps  DNA methylation levels  may uncover the unknown ages of so many interesting species.

So what are we lacking? I’m currently lacking a 50 acre farm where I can house a bunch of long-lived animals (translation: I will have the cutest property ever).

  • There’s no nuclear or mitochondrial genome data uploaded to the NCBI website.
  • As I mentioned above, we have no idea how long these animals can live. There’s a need for precise age estimation techniques, preferably ones that do not require harming the animal. Wouldn’t it be amazing to find an adorable Blanding’s turtle, scrape a tiny bit of skin cells from him and send him on his way, only to find out that he was 200 years old or older? I’d like to think that humans will one day see the magic in this living world of ours.

Conservation status: For as upbeat and happy as this post is, the conservation status is not. Blanding’s turtle is listed as endangered and declining by the IUCN. Thanks to habitat destruction, illegal animal collection and trade, and increasing road mortality, the future looks pretty bleak for Blanding’s turtles. I cannot stress enough the need for education in habitat destruction for everyone. Yes, a new road cuts your trip time down by 10 minutes. You know what else it cuts down? Swamps, trees, and habitats that animals so desperately need to survive. We’re all struggling to live the best we can, so how about sprinkling some empathy for those who cannot adapt to our greedy wants. We are a species that demands instant gratification without caring about the costs.

Please contact me if you would like to share your knowledge about this species.

  1. Congdon, J. D., et al. “Hypotheses of aging in a long-lived vertebrate, Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii).” Experimental gerontology 36.4 (2001): 813-827.
  2. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Blanding’s turtle. Accessed 10/30/2016. http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7166.html