Reptile Pile: Turtle Time Marathon

Turtles come from the order Testudines, and are recognizable by their shells, which developed from their ribs. A turtle’s shell is part of its body, and is made mostly of bone covered with keratin scales. Though many turtles retract their bodies into their shell for protection, technically the turtle does not “go inside” its shell, and it certainly cannot leave! A turtle’s skeleton is fused to the top of its shell.

There are two major groups of turtles, side-necked turtles and hidden neck turtles. Hidden neck turtles are probably what you think of when you think of turtles – they retract their heads into their shells. Side-neck turtles can’t retract their heads, and instead bend them to the side to hide. Their heads are still somewhat protected beneath the shell’s overhang.

Turtles have unique skulls that are different from those of other living reptiles, birds and mammals. They are solid with no openings for muscle attachment, with muscles instead attaching to the back of the skull. The don’t have teeth, instead using keratin beaks to bite down on their food. Carnivorous turtles, especially ones that eat hard-shelled animals can have very forceful bites. Ouch!

Turtles age slowly and can live long lives. The oldest known living turtle is a giant tortoise named Jonathan who celebrated 190 years in 2022! Wild turtles tend to have shorter lifespans but can still live a long time. Turtles keep growing new scutes each year, so, like rings on a tree you can age-date a turtle by its shell markings.

Due to having to hauling around shells all day, turtles tend to be slow moving on land. But they can move pretty quickly in the water! The Galápagos Giant Tortoise goes on very leisurly strolls at an average of 0.16 mph (.26 km/h), while the Leatherback Sea Turtle, that can swim up to 22 mph (35.28 km/h)!

So what are you waiting for! Make like a sea turtle and start swimming towards the finish line! The marathon begins at 10:00 AM ET on 8/24, and you will have 24 hours to complete one or more cells. Bonus & cell renaming information can be found in your in-game notifications.

Swag: Anyone in the top 25% of participants will be entered into a raffle, for which the five prizes include a wall clock, a pillow (new for this year!), and three sticker/magnet sets.