How to know if a turtle is male or female?


The veterinarian Blanca Caballero will help us know how to identify the sex of the turtles.

The Turtles are one of the pets preferred>

But, they are the big strangers. Little do we know how to identify their mood, how to know their food preferences or something as simple as knowing if they are female or male. The veterinarian Blanca Caballero will help us know how to identify the sex of the turtles.

The sex of the turtles

The turtle forms a group of reptiles characterized by having a wide and short trunk, and a shell that protects its internal organs. The front legs and the head come out from the shell, and the rear legs and the tail from behind. Precisely, It is your own body that determines your sex.

It is your own body that determines your sex

Turtles have an average life of about 20-30 years, with some exceptions, and in some cases last less years after being in captivity or even living until 40. The Age to determine the sex of the turtle is between 3-5 years, since that is when these reptiles reach sexual maturity. There are exceptions, since in some species it can be determined at two years or even earlier, but this occurs very rarely.

Common traits that differentiates sex

Identifying the sex of the turtle is not an easy task. In addition, to make it more complicated, the characteristics that differentiate them vary from one species to another. But, according to the veterinarian Caballero, in general terms the features that differentiate them are:

- The tail: The tail of the males is bigger and widens at its base to allow penis accommodation. In all species, the opening of the cloaca (excretory apparatus of the turtle) is further away from the body than in females.

- Shape of the plastón: The plastón is the part of the bottom of the shell of the turtle, the part that protects the belly of the animal. As for the shape, in some cases they tend to be concave in males, and straight and even in females.

- Rear protuberances: These protrusions are found in the dorsal part of the plastón. They are like two "spikes" protruding from the shell. In the females have a "U" shape, while in males it has a "V" shape.

Particular features that differentiates sex

In addition to the most common characteristics, there are some particular features that occur in some species and that can also determine what sex our turtle has. These are more complicated to perceive, but in many cases they serve more help than common features. These are the following:

The age to be able to determine the sex of the turtle is between 3-5 years old

- Nail length: In males, the front nails are much longer than in females, giving the feeling of even being overgrown.

-The color: Some species may manifest changes in their color depending on the seasons. If they change color it is because they are in the breeding season, in that case, we would be talking about a female turtle. In addition, modifications in the eye color In the case of males, they are more reddish, while females have more orange.

How to distinguish a male or female turtle?

Determining the sex of a turtle is a very complicated task, because their sexual organs are not exposed. For a turtle, being male or female is genetically determined but, depending on the temperature at which the embryos develop, there will be more abundance of females or males.

To know what we should look at when establishing the sex of a turtle, the first thing we should know is the species to which it belongs. Each species of turtle has different characteristics when it comes to sex. Therefore, first of all, we must find out what species we are dealing with. After this, we must attend to certain body parts like the shell, the tail, the anal notch or the plastron.

Body size

Like other groups of reptiles, such as lizards and snakes, turtles have a wide range of sexual dimorphism (differences between the sexes), although the females have a larger size in most cases, for example, females of the Emydidae family such as the yellow-eared turtle (Trachemys scripta scripta), the Geoemydidae family as the leper galapago (Mauremys leper) and the Trionychidae family or soft shell turtles.

The males are usually larger when we talk about species belonging to the Testudinidae family such as the Mediterranean turtle (Testudo hermanni) or the Kinosternidae family as Sternotherus carinatus, a very common panton turtle in the United States, where it is more popular as a pet than red-eared turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans).

When females are larger than males, this difference is between 50 and 60 percent. While in species where males are larger, the difference does not usually exceed 20 or 30 percent.

In certain species, such as the Florida turtle (Gopherus polyphemus) and other species of the family Testudinidae, such as the black turtle (Testudo graeca), the degree of concavity of the plastron is an important characteristic for determining sex. The plastron is the lower shell of the turtle and the concavity is in the back, more or less between the hind legs.

In the males, this hole is more pronounced than in females, but the difference is usually not more than 1 millimeter in many cases, so the eye of the observer must be very trained to see the difference.

Shell size and shape

Many species of European turtles usually have differences in the shell depending on whether they are male or female. Thus, it seems that the shell of the males is usually wider and with a triangular finish, which would give more stability when copulating. On the other hand, the plastron has two protuberances that are more marked in males than in females, giving more freedom of movement to the tail.

Also discover in ExpertAnimal how to know the age of a turtle.

Tail size

In most turtle species, the tail is usually longer in males and wider at its base, because the penis must be housed inside. On the other hand, the sewer (organ of reptiles where there is access to excretory and reproductive devices) is closer to the tip of the tail in males and closer to the base in females.

Anal notch

The anal notch is the distance that exists, looking at the turtle plastron, that is, its "belly", between the end of the plastron and the end of the shell. In males, this anal notch is usually greater than in females for many species of land turtles, since they must have greater freedom of movement so that the tail and, therefore the penis, reach the female's sexual organ.

PCR analysis

The most effective way to determine the sex of a turtle is through a DNA analysis by PCR (laboratory analytical technique). A veterinarian can draw blood from the animal, send it to a laboratory and, within a few days, the sex of the turtle will be known for sure.

If you want to read more articles similar to How to know if a turtle is male or female?, we recommend that you enter our Curiosities section of the animal world.

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Turtles are one of the favorite pets in homes, as they do not need to eat much and are much cleaner than other animals that can be had in the home. In addition, they can be moved to other places more easily when required.

Even so, turtles remain a mystery to many of their owners, it is often difficult to know when they are in a good mood, what their favorite food is or simply to know if they are male or female turtles. And, unlike many other pets, turtles have no visible genitals.

To get an idea of ​​the sex of a turtle, you must first know that they are reptiles covered by a shell with the function of protecting internal organs.

Turtles have the ability to hide and leave their shell both in front, with their head and front legs, and behind, with their hind legs and tail. Although all of the above seems obvious, the key to determining whether they are male or female lies in these characteristics.

How is the process of turtle formation according to their sex?

The sex of the turtles is genetically determined by certain specific qualities, necessary in their formation. For example, in the incubation process of these reptiles, females require an incubation temperature higher than that of males.

The age of the turtles at which their sex can be determined with certainty is between three and five years old, and they reach sexual maturity at this stage. It should also be taken into account that in some species this age may vary, but they are exceptional cases.

Differentiating factors between males and female turtles are found in their body. However, and even knowing this, it is not an easy task, among other things because certain characteristics may vary depending on the species of turtle in question.

Here are the four most notable differentiations between male and female turtles:

The turtle's shell
There is a difference between the size of the shell of female turtles and male turtles, the former have a longer shell than the latter.

However, only this feature cannot certify that a turtle is male or female at birth. If the turtle has not grown completely one would think that it is a male turtle, when it can be a female still in a state of growth. Irregularities can also occur in which a male is particularly large and a female is small. Thus both would coincide in a certain size despite the difference of sexes.

Age of the turtle: shell
The belly of the turtle or lower part of the shell is called plastron, to check this part of the turtle you must carefully hold the animal face up. This position is not very pleasant for turtles, so it will be necessary to hold it at the end of the tail to prevent it from biting.

Once in this position it will be possible to determine if the plastron is concave, which would indicate that it is a male, or if it is flat, characteristic of the females. This information is valuable in determining the sex of the turtle.

These characteristic forms of each plastron have some utility when these reptiles mate. The concave shape of the male's plastron prevents it from sliding while being on the female during mating. On the other hand, the flat plastron of females adds interior space in which they develop their eggs.

Search notches in the turtle's tail
Male turtles have a kind of ‘v’ shaped notch in the back of their shell. This allows them to keep it in an effective position during the mating ritual.

Make sure about which species of turtle you have
Depending on the species to which the turtle belongs, it may have certain characteristics that will differentiate more clearly if it is male or female.

For example, American brown-and-yellow box turtles with a round shell, such as a dome, are female, while those with red or orange irises and oval or rectangular shells are male.

Easier to distinguish the painted turtles, because if your belly is blue it means that it is a male turtle, while if it is of some other color it will be a female.

The main differences

Female turtles have it longer than males, but you have to make sure they have grown before comparing them.

If you do not know this term, we anticipate that it is the “belly” of the turtle that also presents differences between males and females. The former have a more concave shape while in females it is flatter.

The claws
In this case it happens to the contrary, the males usually have them more elongated than the females.

The tail
The main difference is that in the male there is usually a tiny eyelash to place the tail at the time of mating, which in females does not happen.

The sewer
It is also located in different places. In females it is in the tail - it is also more circular - but very close to the shell while in the males towards the middle of the tail.

In the different types of turtles there are also differences

Some species have differences between males and females, such as the painted turtles, where males have a bluish-colored belly or the American cashier, which show differences in eye color: red males and brown females.

On many occasions you will have to wait until the turtle has finished fully developing to determine if it is male or female, this process can take several years, but we recommend that if you have doubts, it is best to consult with your veterinarian.