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5 Senses of Turtles

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Turtles taste, see, smell and feel. They have some hearing, but they don't hear well because of something they lack. That doesn’t stop them from moving around and doing everything they need to do to survive, thrive and avoid all those cars whizzing down the road. Because they can’t hear very well, those other senses are a little more finely developed.


Turtles have well-developed sight. Sea turtles can easily adapt their sharp vision from water to land, enabling them to find food for both themselves and their young. Interestingly, sea turtles can see in color -- this ability helps them to avoid predators and distinguish what foods they are going to eat. The turtle’s sight is so well-developed, he is able to distinguish pattern and shape differences. Despite being able to see well enough to detect patterns, turtles don’t have peripheral vision.


Turtles smell well, both on land and under the water. They don't have nostrils, they have bumps under their chins. These bumps, called barbels, have nerves that allow them to pick up scents. In a land turtle, this well-developed sense helps avoid predators. During mating season, sea turtles use their sense of smell to pick up on the pheromones coming from female turtles.


Turtles don't hear well because they lack the ear drum or tympanum that other species have. This doesn’t stop them from being able to pick up lower or deeper sound frequencies and vibrations, both in the water and on land. Meanwhile, the organs in a turtle’s ears do help them: They help them to feel changes in water pressure that can warn them of the presence of predators.


While the skin of a turtle is leathery, it is still very sensitive. Tame turtles might enjoy receiving a neck rub, for instance. Sea turtles can feel your hand on their shells -- a series of nerves under the surfaces of their shells enable them to know when you are touching their shells.


Some turtle species have taste buds that give them the ability to taste their food as they eat it, but other varieties lack taste buds. Sea turtles, or chelonians, are among those with taste buds. Snapping turtles don't have taste buds -- this might help them to eat and swallow food that would otherwise be perceived as poisonous. Other species, such as hawksbill and leatherback turtles, eat both poisonous and nonpoisonous jellyfish with no ill effects.