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Five Fun Facts about Turtles

a painted turtle on a log at Burham Prairie
A painted turtle at Burnham Prairie.

While the turtles living in Cook County aren’t considered teenage mutants, there are several interesting species found throughout the Forest Preserves including painted turtles, common snapping turtles, spotted turtles and Blanding’s turtles! Read on to learn five fun facts about turtles:

  • A turtle’s shell is comprised of three parts: The top called the carapace, the sides called the bridges, and the bottom called the plastron.
  • Turtles are part of the reptile family, making them related to lizards, snakes, crocodiles and alligators.
  • As ectotherms—meaning they’re cold-blooded—turtles regulate their body temperature using external sources. You may spot them warming up by basking in the sun atop a log.
  • Turtles live long lives! It’s not uncommon for a turtle to live over 20 years, and some turtles can live over 100 years!
  • Turtles can breathe through their skin. While buried in soil or mud to survive Chicagoland winters, turtles’ oxygen and energy needs are greatly reduced thanks to slowed metabolic rates. Turtles will absorb just enough oxygen through their thin skin to stay alive.

Want to learn more about turtles and other local wildlife? Visit one of the Forest Preserves’ six nature education centers to talk to a naturalist!