Why do Turtles Live so Long?

Turtles are reptiles that have a life span that varies from 30 to 100 years depending on the species. The smaller-sized turtles, such as box tortoises, can live up to about several decades, while the large giant tortoises can survive to be 100 years or more. There is some debate as to why exactly turtles live so long, with some theories suggesting such longevity relates to the metabolism of the body. It is a fact that animals which have a very fast metabolism, such as mice, tend to have a shorter lifespan than animals with a slower digestion.


Turtles do have a very slow metabolism, which means their cells are using up energy very slowly, allowing them to survive long periods of time without food. In addition, turtles also grow at an exceedingly slow rate when compared with animals like birds and mammals and it would seem they age more slowly because they grow more gradually. As cold-blooded creatures, they do not have to use energy to keep their bodies warm but instead rely on the environment and their response to it to regulate their body temperature. In addition, as animals that hibernate during winter time, they use even less energy.

Minimal Threat After Young Age

The most vulnerable time for a turtle is shortly after hatching when there are numerous predators eager to catch and feed on them, resulting in plenty of young turtles that do not survive to reproduce and grow old. However, the ones that do can endure for a very long time and because they live so long they can choose when to breed. This is an advantage for an animal that is often found in a hostile environment where conditions are not always good for breeding.

Eating Habits

Another reason that turtles live so long could be because of their eating habits. The turtles and tortoises that live the longest are vegetarians; for example, the Green sea turtle often survives over 50 years. Many turtles only eat herbaceous material which has no fat or cholesterol, two substances that can be unhealthy for anybody. Not having to actively pursue and catch prey in the way that predators or omnivores do, an herbivore can live a less energetically expensive life where they only need to find plant material to feed on, and plants do not move! Turtles are somewhat docile creatures that do not expend energy in wasteful activity, such as conflicts, which also helps to increase their lifespan. Unfortunately, the biggest threat to turtles and their lifespan is humans and human activities like fishing with the damage caused by the nets, and disturbance to turtle nest sites. The exact reason why turtles live so long is not known for certain, but it is most likely to be a combination of factors as discussed in this article.