Many animals hunt, move or show joy by jumping, while others are unable to do so. The elephant is well known for not knowing how to jump, just like snails, sloths, hippos, snakes and of course, some marine animals. The turtle is often placed in the category of animals incapable of jumping, but is this really the case? Let’s shed light on this fact.
Turtles’ abilities and morphology prevent them from jumping
Known for being very slow, the turtle is also not a model of agility. And these are two important abilities to be able to jump, which therefore implies that the turtle is very limited. On the other hand, their heavy shell is ideal for protecting them from enemies, but slows them down considerably. As a reminder, it represents on average around 30% of its total weight!
When we talk about jumps, we have that of the dog that comes to mind or that of the cat. Obviously, it is impossible to see a turtle achieve such a feat. However, mammals are indeed capable of jumping!
Big turtles don’t jump, but small turtles can.
You will never see a land turtle jump, that’s a fact. But little turtles absolutely can! This is also the case for some medium-sized turtles. Here again, we need to rethink how we visualize what we call “a jump.” In general, a jump is made in height or length. You can imagine that you will not see a turtle jumping high. But you can see one doing a long jump. Apparently, its jump resembles that of a frog, but much less agile!
The turtle most capable of jumping is none other than the snapping turtle. Renowned for its aggressiveness, its sharp beak has already severed the fingers and damaged the hands of overly curious human beings. These specimens measure between 20 and 40 cm and weigh between 4 and 40 kg for the oldest. Its shell is quite bulky and its tail is topped with crests, like a dinosaur. This turtle can project itself forward to catch its prey or to defend itself by attacking. Its muscles are powerful and its movements are very fast. She knows how to demonstrate agility using her muscles, which is why she can perform small jumps forward.
The turtle jump: a quick set-up and a mediocre result
To jump, turtles fold the rear legs while simultaneously extending the front legs. However, they do not hold the position for very long, a few seconds are enough before the “big jump”. In fact, the weight of the turtle is equally distributed over the 4 legs. In this position, she will transfer part of her weight to her hind legs to propel herself forward.
Not being at all natural, the position can be uncomfortable if maintained for too long. The length of a turtle jump is very short: between 5 and 10 cm at most.
When do turtles jump?
Turtles may be encouraged to jump for a variety of reasons. For example, they can escape danger by trying to jump. Although they can only move forward, this ability often allows them to take cover.
Some turtles dive! This is the case with Florida turtles. In an aquarium, for example, they can be caught jumping into the water from a rock. Likewise, if its environment does not suit it or it shares its living space with potential predators or animals that it considers undesirable, the turtle may jump and even try to escape under the influence of stress.
Finally, in nature, the turtle may force itself to make small jumps to overcome an obstacle, for example. It happens that certain uneven terrain does not always allow them to move as they would like. Mini jumps often save them a lot of hassle.