Perhaps it’s because I grew up watching and re-watching ET — who resembled an overgrown deshelled turtle — that I feel such an affinity for these little dudes. For cold-blooded reptiles, turtles and tortoises are adorable. To see one helping up a buddy, as in the following video, well that just amps up the cute even more!
Hey, buddy, I’ve been there…
The most recent addition to my own house is a little green guy named Nicholi (my impetus for this post). As he squirmed and hissed around in his owner’s hand when I met him, it got me thinking:
- One, I have no idea how you’re supposed to “meet” a turtle. Clearly whatever the proper greeting is, this wasn’t it.
- Two, how intelligent are turtles? My roommate explained that Nicholi (who is now one) should live for another 79 years. That’s a long time to spend in a plastic tub with occasional jaunts out to the backyard. It kind of made me sad.
I decided to do a little digging and found this New York Times “Ask Science” piece about turtle intelligence. Basically, there isn’t definitive scientific research to suggest they’re smart, and one doctor actually calls them dumb. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that turtles and tortoises are as smart as those wise old faces would have you believe! Of course, anecdotal evidence isn’t exactly science.
There are several cute stories in the NYT article. There’s also one not-so-cute story, but it relates to my situation. A 70-pound soft shelled turtle named Pigface had lived at the National Zoo for more than 40 years. Then, one day he began mutilating himself. Researchers wondered if the poor guy was bored out of his mind and began adding toys to his tank. Slowly he learned to play with the toys; the more puppy-like he became in learning to play, the less he mutilated himself. No word, however, on whether he might be intelligent enough to be shamed by the indignity of such a cruel name as Pigface…