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How Do You Identify The Gender Of A Turtle?

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Turtles are reptiles belonging to the order Testudines (turtles). They are characterized by their shell or carapace, which protects them from predators. The shell varies in size and shape depending on the species.

Turtle touching bubble with nose

Some turtles are born hermaphrodites, meaning they possess both male and female reproductive organs. However, in some turtles, sex is determined at birth. Others can develop into males or females later on in life.

The best way to tell the gender of a turtle is by looking at its genitalia. Males have an elongated penis that extends out of their cloaca.

Females have two ovaries located inside their body cavity. Their eggs are laid in nests. Turtles can be identified by their shells.

Using Shell Size And Shape To Determine A Turtle’s Gender

Shells vary in size and shape depending upon the species. For example, sea turtles have a large, flat shells with a concave back. Land turtles have a small, roundish shell with a convex back.

In general, the larger the shell, the more mature the animal. Smaller-shelled animals may be juveniles. It is not possible to determine the gender of a turtle by simply looking at the size of its shell. However, there are several ways to identify the gender of a turtle:

  1. Look for the presence or absence of a cloacal opening. If there is no opening, it’s likely a juvenile.
  2. Look for the presence or absence of a penile sheath. This sheath covers the end of a male’s penis. It helps protect his genitals from injury during mating. If you see a cloacal opening, but no penile sheath, it’s probably a female.
  3. Look for the presence of a vagina. Female turtles have a pair of ovaries and a vaginal canal leading up to it. Male turtles do not have these structures.
  4. Look for the presence/absence of a scrotum.

Are Male Turtles More Aggressive Than Female Turtles?

Male turtles tend to be more aggressive than female turtles. They often fight each other over territory. When one turtle wins the battle, he will mate with the female. Afterward, he will leave.

Female turtles rarely fight each other. Instead, they engage in courtship behavior. During this time, the male will attempt to woo the female. He’ll try to get close enough so that she can smell him.

When a male turtle approaches a female, he will make loud noises. He may also use his tongue to lick her.

Using Markings And Coloration To Determine A Turtle’s Gender

Box turtle on a rock

Some turtles exhibit different coloration based upon their gender. For example, if you look closely at a male green sea turtle, you might notice that his head has a dark blue band running down its center.

This coloration serves as camouflage. It makes him blend in with the ocean floor. You won’t find this type of marking on the heads of female turtles.

Using Claw Length To Determine A Turtle’s Gender

Turtles can be identified by their claws. Male turtles have longer claws than female turtles.

If you’re holding a male turtle, you should be able to stretch the tip of his claw while keeping the rest of it still. If you’re unable to stretch the claw, then your turtle is most likely a female.

If you’re unsure about which gender your turtle is, you should definitely take a closer look at his claws. If they appear to be equal in length, then it’s most likely a female.

You should remember to exercise the utmost caution when determining the gender of your turtle as you do not want to cause any pain, distress or discomfort to your beloved pet.

Therefore, the easiest means of determining your turtle’s gender is to take them to a vet, who will be able to safely and conclusively determine the gender of your turtle.

Turtle Species Identification Guide

Green sea turtle on the beach

There are many types of turtles. Each species has unique characteristics. Knowing what kind of turtle you’re dealing with will help you to determine its gender.

Here is a list of some common turtle species:

  • Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) – These turtles live near shorelines. They eat jellyfish and plankton. They lay eggs in sand.
  • Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) – These turtles live off the coast of Florida. They eat crabs, shrimp, worms, and algae. They lay eggs in nests made of sticks and seaweed.
  • Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) – These turtles live along the Atlantic Coast. They eat small fish, shrimps, crabs, clams, and mollusks. They lay eggs in a nest made of sticks and leaves.
  • Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) – These turtles live in warm oceans. They eat jellyfish, octopus, squid, and fish. They lay eggs in nesting areas made of rocks and shells.
  • Nesting Loggerheads (Caretta caretta caretta) – These turtles live in coastal waters. They eat crab larvae, shrimp, and clams. They lay eggs in a nest made of sticks and seaweeds.
  • Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) – These turtles live on the Gulf Coast. They eat snails, slugs, and insects. They lay eggs in burrows dug into sandy beaches.
  • Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) – This turtle lives in rivers and lakes. It eats aquatic plants and insects. It lays eggs in shallow water.
  • Striped Marsh Turtle (Sylvia carolinensis) – These turtles live around marshes. They eat worms, insects, and crustaceans. They lay eggs in grassy areas.
  • Trionyx Triangulum – These turtles live in freshwater streams. They eat crayfish, frogs, and insects. They may lay eggs in holes or under logs.
  • Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmoratus) – These turtles live throughout North America. They eat earthworms, insects, and small fish. They lay eggs on land.


To conclude, there are many varieties of turtles, and you can determine their gender by looking for certain markings and colors. You can also determine a turtle’s gender by measuring its claw length.

If you are still unable to determine your turtle’s gender, then you should consult with a professional who will be able to safely ascertain the gender of your turtle.

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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.