Pets & Animal Reptiles

How to Tell the Age of Turtles

    • 1). Identify the turtle’s species. Turtle species vary in their lifespan and this information helps you know how long it took your turtle to mature and how long it might have lived already. Also, it needs to be a turtle species that is hard-shelled. Soft-shelled species don’t form the tell-tale lines. You can use the link below to go to an extensive library of information about many turtle species.

    • 2). Look closely at one of the scutes. These are the scale-like sections that make up a turtle’s shell. You will see a pattern of lines that formed as the turtle grew and added layers to its shell. Count the lines. This number will be your starting point to estimate the turtle’s age once other information is taken into account.

    • 3). Weigh the turtle and measure its shell using a measuring tape. Compare your results with a description for this turtle species. If the turtle is small (and especially if there are few rings) it’s a young turtle. Most turtles mature in six years or so, so you can probably guess a young turtle’s age within a year.

    • 4). Examine the shell for damage and wear if the turtle is big enough to be an adult. A shell that has few scrapes or chips indicates a turtle that is likely to be younger than the number of scute lines indicates. Turtles who have a good food supply and environment or who have been in captivity a long time will grow faster and form more lines. On the other hand, a turtle whose shell is heavily marked may be older than the scute lines indicate.

    • 5). Put all this together with any information you can gather about the turtle’s past and make an estimate of its age. You won’t be able to say for sure, but you will be able to make a reliable guess within five years for so—perhaps 10 years if it’s a really old turtle.

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