Ten of the Worlds Rarest and Most Unusual Turtles and Tortoises

Seeing my neighbours kids talk about and indeed play with their tortoise makes me wonder what they love about it. It’s kind of boring looking, doesn’t move much and seems to bite anyone and everything that comes near it! Surely they should swap it for one of this lot…


Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Yellow-blotched map turtle

10 – Graptemys flavimaculata

Sadly this is also officially the worlds rarest turtle due to changes in its natural environment. Often called a yellow sawback by local people, it is a species of the Emydidae family and lives in the mud-bottomed river often inside dead trees.

Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Leatherback sea turtle

9 – Dermochelys coriacea

It is sometimes called a lute turtle, but its real name is the leatherback sea turtle. In a lot of tourist places will allow you to swim alongside these amazing animals and will often tell you how they are so unusual having a leather shell rather than a hard bone one. But what they won’t tell you about is how deadly and unusual the inside of their mouths are!

Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
White Poyang Turtle

8 – Unknown

This albino turtle is so new it doesn’t even have an official scientific name! It is believed that it lives in underwater caves without sunlight and that is why it is colourless. But still one amazing turtle none the less.

Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Spiny turtle

7 – Heosemys spinosa

This rather prickly looking chap lives in the Amazon rainforest, near streams. You don’t need anyone to tell you why or indeed how it got its name because it is a handle with care kind of a tortoise and those spikes really are needle sharp.

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Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Pancake tortoise

6 – Malacochersus tornieri

The pancake tortoise doesn’t get the name because it can flip pancakes with the best of use, it has an unusually thin, and very flat, flexible shell which does kind of make it look like a pancake. But I still think the name is kind of cruel.

Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Radiated Tortoise

5 – Astrochelys radiata

If not the tortoise with the most unusual name, it certainly gets the strangest shell pattern vote. It got its name because of the stunning yellow lines radiating from the centre of each dark plate of the shell.

Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

4 – Malaclemys terrapin

Definitely, one of the strangest looking terrapins you are going to see. Sadly. because the terrapin is in high demand it gets protected wildlife status to stop it being sold on the black market.

Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Cantor’s giant softshell turtle

3 – Pelochelys cantorii

The turtle got its name from Theodore Edward Cantor, who was a Danish zoologist and botanist that first discovered the species. Often called the Asian giant softshell freshwater turtle, it is a river monster for sure, and can grow up to 6 ft in length, but sadly spends 95% of its life buried and motionless, with only its eyes and mouth sticking out from the sand.

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Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Alligator Snapping Turtle

2 – Macrochelys temminckii

The alligator snapping turtle is officially the heaviest freshwater turtle in the world and is often confused with the common snapping turtle. There are some deadly facts about this rather odd looking turtle like the shell can be up to 4 inches thick making it effectively bulletproof, and there is also video evidence of them attacking and eating actual adult alligators!

Top 10 Rare and Unusual Turtles and Tortoises
Mary River Turtle

1 – Elusor macrurus

Often called the Penny Turtle or the Pet Shop Turtle, the Mary River turtle is yet another endangered species of short-necked turtles. Unlike what most blog posts will tell you they don’t put the algae onto their heads for camouflage, they naturally grow algae all over their heads and limbs.

Author: Gus Barge

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