Turtles: The Definitive Guide


“Turtles.” You’ve probably heard of them before, if not seen one.

Here is an illustration for the uninitiated:

simple drawing of a turtle

The facial expression is, I assume, added for approachability.

At this point I’m sure you’re wondering, “Well, forgoshsakes, what IS it?” Easy there, friend. You’re not alone in your frustrations. The sages have pondered this question over the millennia.

Although sometimes the turtle can resemble a plant…

a turtle with lush vegetation growing off from its shell
or mineral…

it does actually belong to the “animal kingdom.” This is supported by the turtles definitively having been invited onto Noah’s ark…

a cartoon image of Noah's ark including turtles

See ’em up there? Awww…

and the strange fact that humans (the most animal of animals) and turtles shared a common ancestor 310 million years ago. Can you imagine how hideous that primordial half-man, half-turtle creature must have looked?

man in turtle shell

Thanks a lot for THOSE nightmares, SCIENCE!

Turtles and Turtles

Turtles are naturally social creatures, as shown by their infinite capacity to stack.

a short stack of turtles

Yes, infinite. Go ahead. Try and prove me wrong.

If you are into the arcane, you might be familiar with the theory that the universe is actually nothing but a stack of turtles. General intuition and our daily experience of the world, when submitted to even a brief moment of reflection, suggests this is absolutely true. We’ll touch on this Truth again in later sections.

turtle family from Finding Nemo

It’s a nice fantasy.

Contrary to what we see in the otherwise accurate film, Finding Nemo, turtles hate their children. First of all, it’s not even conclusive that turtles HAVE fathers. Second of all, mother turtles expel their eggs onto a lonely beach and return to the ocean as quickly as possible, lest they be anywhere near when the little beasts emerge. Beyond the effects of this baseline neglect, most of the offspring will be destroyed by humans, human-caused habitat destruction, human-caused climate change, and humans (again). But as even the mother turtle seems indifferent to these ravages, where, then, lies our motivation to change our ways? Well, look no further than the following section.

Turtles and You

Humans have been interacting with turtles ever since some kind of divine intervention or axe-throwing competition gone wrong split our disgusting common ancestor in two. However, people have been doing their side of the interaction all wrong!

Some people think that turtles make good pets. This is entirely false. For one thing, turtles are objectively boring. This is less their fault than a product of our times. Modern humans are shallow beings who have lived to see the advent of actually fun games like Go and Pokemon Go. When it comes to turtles, there is no “going” at all. Honestly you would have more fun playing with your pocket lint.

For another thing, if you actually do a good job taking care of your turtle, it is likely to outlive you. Who, then, is the master, and who is the pet?

a small turtle swimming in an aquarium

One look into your theoretical pet turtle’s eyes will tell you that it is far smarter than you are. Do you think YOU’D like to live in a little glass bowl? Then why would a turtle?

Even the wokest humans (myself included, OK) tend to look down on turtles for being so slow. This is merely a limitation of our pitiful organs of perception and hopelessly parochial notions of time.

a cartoon depiction of the tortoise and hare story

“But what about that lovely parable with the tortoise and the hare?” you are thinking. “Surely this shows that we value turtles and all their speed-challenged ways.” “Bah!” I say! As if turtles need to prove themselves by participating in our silly races and, I don’t know, metaphors for capitalism, probably.

If you have a pet turtle, although you might not be able to hear it, trust me, it is LAUGHING at you. It is laughing and also crying, because it wants to go outside and feel the sun on its shell and stack up with its pals, just like you do.

Some humans also think that turtles are an appropriate source of food. The belief is that the harder an animal is to eat, the tastier it must be. “What deliciousness must be hiding inside those tricksy shells?” you are probably already wondering, saliva running thick down your chin, a sharp implement already in your hands. But this is yet more fallacious thinking. Repeated experiments show that when you finally open up a turtle’s shell, whatever was inside disappears with a popping sound and a bright flash of light. Many would-be turtle consumers have been literally blinded by their greed.

“Aw shucks,” you’re thinking. “What ARE these durned things good for, ANYWAY?” Hmmm… Can’t keep them in little bowls, can’t eat them… It indeed seems we have exhausted the possible reasons why we would strive to keep an entire order of animal alive. Well, beyond the aforementioned fact that the universe is LITERALLY TURTLES, they also offer plentiful benefits to mankind.

Just take sea turtles as one example. Sea turtles eat sea grass. If this stops happening, then the entire global food web will collapse. I’m not joking. Do YOU want to go down there and eat sea grass? I didn’t think so. You probably wouldn’t even do it correctly and you’d make things worse, to be honest.

sea turtle eating sea grass

Furthermore, sea turtles lay their eggs on sandy shores, as mentioned in the previous section. Nutrients from the turtle eggs and most unfortunate of the neglected hatchlings are vital to the growth of what little vegetation manages to cling to these dune environments. Scientists and my Magic 8 Ball concur that if we lose the turtles and thus the turtle eggs, soon the entire planet will become a desert hellscape where the only law is survival and the only certainy is not surviving.

scene from Mad Max Fury Road

“Why didn’t I donate to Save the Turtles when I had a chance?”

Turtles and Spacetime

All the correct religions in the world identify the cosmological significance of turtles. Ancient peoples whose minds were unclouded by vaping and 5G were able to behold the universe in the form of the turtle and vice versa. Here is just a partial list of examples:

    • In Indian myth, the worldly realm as we know it (or, as a mountain) is saved from drowning by a BIG TURTLE during a drunken universe-making tug-of-war between the gods and demons. In some accounts, there are a few elephants in there, forming a filler layer between turtle and earth.

elephants riding a turtle and holding up a mountain

    • In Chinese thought, the earth is pretty much a sqaure and heaven is basically a circle. Therefore, the circely-square/squarely-circle shape of the tortoise means that it is the connection between realms.
    • Many Native North American groups recognize that the world is a turtle upon a great sea. In one Iroquois recounting, the cosmogonic event occurs because a celestial being kicks his illicitly impregnated celestial daughter out of their sky-house (but allows a slimy turtle to break her fall and thus spawn all subsequent creation).
    • In Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, we are repeatedly reminded that the earth is held up by an all-encompassing, all-knowing, all-loving turtle. (The reason that the movie adaptation was the worst thing that ever happened to my eyeballs is because those responsible did not meditate sufficiently on this underlying Truth.)

diagram of the beams from the Dark Tower series

That’s all cute and nice, but what about the SCIENCE? is probably what you’re thinking at this point. Well, I’ll have you know, according to the most advanced scientific theories EVER, the known/knowable universe is but as a drop of sea scum in the corner of a single turtling’s eye. There are multiple, even infinite universes, and unfathomable, imperceivable dimensions endlessly splitting and converging across space-time. Therefore humanity’s collective hunch that the world is all turtles seems all the more likely to be literally true than just some weird collective fantasy. I mean, there’s gotta be a LITERAL turtleverse out there somewhere, and why not here? WHY NOT HERE?!?!? PROVE ME WRONG!

Yurtle the Turtle turtle tower

DOCTOR Seuss… he knew something.