*British English, but can be written in American if need be*
Turtles: Five Reasons Why We Should Show Some Respect
We've been programmed to assess animals in order of importance. This is a structure that has been a very long time in the making and directly responsible for generations of superstition that range from mildly funny to unbelievably foolish. It is commonly held that reptiles are dawdling, stupid creatures, and of little significance in our superior mammalian microcosm. Non-avian dinosaurs were once victims of this persecution as well. But they were able to escape it through new discoveries, and their being thrust into the forefront of the media spotlight in recent decades. The reptiles right before us, living and breathing, have not had the same love shown to them. Turtles, in particular, are attached the stigma of being dull, and known as little more than lackluster, easily-replaced childhood pets. We label turtles slow and boring because they're simply not exciting enough for us to know about them. Today, however, we have troves of information at our fingertips; rectifying the aforementioned erroneous beliefs is easier than ever.
1 Turtles are smarter than you think
We can relate to the skulking cat and strident dog quite readily due to a perceived similarity. Whereas, we see very little of ourselves in our scale and scute-covered friends. Somehow the relationship we share as fellow amniotes is lost on most people. Anatomical similarities aside, turtles have a complex social aspect that too few people recognise. Mainstream herpetology confirms that turtles are indeed social creatures and many species are known to form bonds with other turtles, and even humans through repeated interaction. They have also been shown to navigate mazes with efficiency comparable to that of laboratory rats, which we all know to be clever creatures.
2 Their existence stretches across eons
The life of a turtle is one of longevity and over 220 million years of success stories. Consider a genus that has remained virtually unchanged for tens of millions of years; now peruse our evolutionary history and realise how pitifully new we are to the world. If nothing else, each time we look at a chelonian we should be reminded that they are models of efficiency, and maybe gazing into those clear, penetrating eyes we can find a way to follow in suit.
3 They are sturdy
Turtles are extraordinary survivors. They hatch with a suit of armour consisting of a shell fused to their skeleton made of , basically, three combined elements: the plastron, bridges, and carapace. The plastron is the belly of the turtle, while the carapace is the more noticeable top. The bridges connect these two. Collectively, these form the instantly recognisable turtle traits, and they are what has enabled these creatures to outlast untold numbers of adversaries that became mere footnotes within the largely unwritten tomes of our planet's biological past. In some cases, a crocodile can vigorously champ away on a particularly robust turtle with little effect. Turtles can also remain active within body temperature gradients that are unthinkable for us, or other mammals: roughly 5 degrees Celcius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) to 35 degrees Celcius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). Comparatively, if your body temperature strays beyond 20 degrees Celcius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) or 41,6 degrees Celcius (107 degrees Fahrenheit), you can forget about activity, and living.
4 Turtles are faster than you
Turtles are quite capable of vigorous activity despite their calm demeanour, and penchant for long bouts of frozen vigilance. The common snapping turtles of North America are known to rapidly bound forward -jaws agape- when bothered, and other varieties scuttle off into the nearest body of water with surprising quickness when approached. Many sea turtles glide through the water with their streamlined paddles at speeds that would dishonour even the fastest human runners (and definitely the swimmers) - reaching speeds in excess of 30 miles-per-hour. Who wants to call turtles slow and boring now?
5 They have their own merit beyond our egocentricity
We often evaluate how helpful to humanity a particular creature is when assigning a disposition. This is a practise that should not be fostered. Appraising creatures that don't directly serve us as somehow less important in our schemes speaks volumes about the self-absorption of mankind. It's true, people can charmingly train specific turtles to follow certain routines, but using that as a reason to compel respect only does them a disservice. Turtles occupy a crucial niche in the world tied to millions of other species, including ourselves. It should be enough that we have a think on what that signifies.
Turtles will likely never have the status of legendary, awe-inspiring creatures in the mainstream lens (ninja varieties don't count), but with just a simple shift in our perception we can learn to appreciate these ingenious survivors who confidently traipse and paddle across our world.