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Do Turtles Mate? (How, When, How Long, What Age, Etc.)

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Turtles are fascinating creatures. They live in both freshwater and saltwater environments, they can survive without oxygen, and they even have shells. There are over 100 species of turtles, and they vary greatly in size and shape.

Two turtles mating

They are slow-moving, peaceful, and intelligent. Some people may wonder how these interesting reptiles reproduce. This article is here to answer all of your questions about turtles and whether they mate or not.

The short answer to this question of whether turtles mate is yes, turtles do mate. They can mate both on land or in the water.

Below we take a look at how turtles mate, when this may happen, what age the turtle may be, and more.

What Time Of Year Do Turtles Mate?

Turtles are hermaphrodites, which means that they have both male and female reproductive organs. They can reproduce by laying eggs or by giving birth to live young.

It’s important to note that there are two different types of turtles: aquatic and terrestrial. Aquatic turtles lay their eggs directly into the water, while terrestrial turtles lay them on the ground.

Many factors determine when a turtle will mate. These include the time of year, the temperature, the weather conditions, and other environmental factors.

Terrestrial turtles usually mate during springtime, but some species will mate throughout the year. In fact, it has been observed that some turtles will mate multiple times per day.

Usually, the mating season for terrestrial or land turtles starts in April and continues through the summer months and into October. Nesting tends to occur between the start of May to the end of July.

Aquatic turtles can mate either on the surface of the water or under the water. However, most species of aquatic turtles only mate once every few years.

The mating season for aquatic or water turtles tends to happen when the length of the day and local temperatures begin to rise.

This is because the incubation temperature plays a key role in what gender a hatchling is born. If the temperatures are high, females are hatched, and if the temperatures are low, the hatchlings are born male.

What Happens During A Turtle’s Mating Process?

Two turtles mating on a branch

A male turtle’s reproductive organs are located at the base of the tail. A female turtle’s reproductive organs are located at the bottom of its body.

Males have very big tails while females have shorter tails. The sexes mate as the male inserts its penis into the female turtle’s cloacae, which is the reproductive opening.

The first step in the mating process is courtship. During courtship, the turtles try to attract a partner.

Once courtship is complete, the male will perform a ritual called mounting. Mounting involves the male placing himself on top of the female.

The next step is to mate, and this is performed differently by aquatic and terrestrial turtles, and both processes are outlined below.

How Do Aquatic Turtles Mate?

Aquatic turtles first meet underwater before mating. The female turtle indicates whether she is ready to mate or not, and if she is ready, the male then climbs on the female’s back while she swims horizontally under the water.

The male turtle holds onto the female’s shell using its long claws. The male turtle strokes the side of the female’s face and flutters its legs in front of the female’s face.

The male and female then twist their legs together, and the male turtle inseminates the female by inserting semen into the female’s cloaca. This can take place either underwater or on the surface of the water.

The act of mating can last for several hours. After mating, the male turtle tries to hang onto the female’s shell to prevent other males from attempting to mate with her.

There are often a number of males competing for one female. They bite each other’s tails and flippers to try to get one male away from the female so they can try to mate with her.

Mating is difficult for female turtles as they must support not only their own weight but also the male’s weight while they swim regularly and try to surface in order to breathe.

When several males are fighting for one female, the female can often drown as they cannot support all the weight on top of them and are unable to reach the surface of the water to breathe.

When the male and female separate they mate with other partners, females can mate with a number of males and store the sperm for several months until the female can fertilize her eggs and begin nesting.

How Do Terrestrial Turtles Mate?

Terrestrial turtles mate just after hibernation, typically in spring. The male tries to attract the female turtle for mating by chasing her and by biting her on the edge of her shell as well as her head and neck.

The female gives the male permission, and he then mounts the female, similar to the mating process between aquatic turtles. The male turtle hooks itself onto the female’s shell using its clawed toes.

Mating ensues as the male inseminates the female by inserting semen into the female’s reproductive opening, or cloaca.

Once mating is finished, the male turtle dismounts the family, but sometimes the male turtle may fall onto its back which can be very dangerous and lead to death if the turtle is not flipped over immediately.

What Age Are Turtles When They Mate?

Two turtles mating

Turtles begin to show mating behaviors once they have reached their maturity age, which differs between genders and types of turtles.

Male turtles reach their sexual reproduction maturity before female turtles.

Aquatic turtles, such as the red-eared sliders, reach their reproduction maturity at a very early age of between two and four years. Females do not become mature until a later age of three to five.

Terrestrial turtles reach their sexual reproduction maturity after five years of age and anywhere up to ten years of age for females.

How Can Turtles Be Encouraged To Mate?

There are several things that you can do to help terrestrial turtles to mate. The first thing you can do is to provide a suitable environment which would mean a space where the turtles can freely move around in.

Creating a provisional nesting area can also encourage female turtles to lay their eggs as it signals to them that it is a safe nesting area.

Ensure that you are pairing an older female turtle with a younger male turtle because they reach sexual reproduction maturity at different ages.

Having multiple females for one male can be helpful also as the male can mate excessively, which can stress a female turtle and lead to ill health.

Males should be separated from one another after mating to prevent any fighting within a group of turtles.

You should also try to match turtles based on their sizes to ensure that no turtle is injured during the mating process.

Helping aquatic turtles is more difficult as they tend to be wild, but having provisional nesting areas can be helpful, as can watching out for the health of the turtles and flipping over any male turtles that may fall on their backs when dismounting from the female turtles.

Sulcata tortoises mating

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Different Breeds Of Turtles Mate With Each Other?

Different types of turtles often end up mating with one another due to the dwindling numbers of certain types of turtles.

Invasive and native species often mate with each other, but this usually only occurs in the wild. Breeders would try to mate the same breeds with one another.

Offspring of crossbreed mating can often live shorter lives as they are more likely to be affected by genetic disorders, so crossbreed mating is not advised.

Are Turtles And Tortoises The Same?

No, they are different animals. Tortoises are lizards, whereas turtles are amphibians. Tortoises are more closely related to snakes than to lizards.

Turtles and tortoises are often confused because they look alike. But they are actually quite different from each other. They are different in many ways, including size, diet, habitat, and behavior.

Tortoises are larger than turtles. A full-grown adult tortoise can weigh anywhere from 30 pounds to 400 pounds, whereas a fully-grown adult turtle can only weigh around 10 pounds.

They also differ in what they eat, tortoises eat plants, insects, worms, and small vertebrates, but turtles eat fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and worms.

Another difference is the environments in which they live. Tortoises live in dry environments whereas turtles live in moist environments. They also differ in their appearance.

Tortoise shells are hard and thick compared to turtle shells which are soft and thin. These are only some main differences between these two incredible species.

Can Tortoises And Turtles Mate With Each Other?

While these animals may look similar, as we explained above, they are incredibly different and so they cannot mate with one another as they are genetically incompatible with one another.

If a tortoise and a turtle were to mate, the offspring would be born unhealthy and would not live a long life.

Another reason they cannot mate with one another is because of their biological differences. They are in no way related and therefore are not compatible.

The difference in their habitual environments is another reason why tortoises and turtles cannot mate.

Bacteria and diseases differ between different environments, and so tortoises and turtles have different immunities to the health dangers in their unique environment.

Possibly the most important reason why tortoises and turtles cannot mate is that they have different mating rituals.

Tortoises are terrestrial creatures, so they mate solely on the land, and their encounter with one another is very rough.

As tortoises are larger than turtles, a turtle would be very injured or possibly die after mating with a tortoise.

They have no way of signaling to the other sex that they are ready to mate, as they cannot communicate with each other or understand the other’s mating call.

Final Thoughts

Turtles are incredibly interesting, and the mating aspect of their lives is only one small area of this amazing creature’s unique life.

Some areas that have a lot of native turtles will have signs displayed during mating season as turtle numbers dwindle.

There is a need to support turtles and leave them to mate and reproduce as many hatchlings as possible to prevent this species from becoming extinct.

If you see a warning sign regarding mating, you should respectfully follow the instructions on the sign so that you do not disrupt these animals during a very special time in their lives.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.