Let’s talk turtle sex

By Madeline McCurry-Schmidt

Hello there, little lady.

Hello there, little lady.

People are incredibly curious about how turtles have sex. This blog gets fairly good traffic based mainly on the search term “how do turtles have sex.” I wrote about turtle sex once, about two years ago. Based on the post’s popularity, I think it’s time for a follow-up.

So we already know how turtles have sex, but did you know:

1. Turtles gotta watch their backs.

Biologists have discovered that bottle-nosed dolphins seem to enjoy having sex with sea turtles. In her book, Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, Olivia Judson describes how dolphins do it:

“Males are frequently sighted copulating with turtles (they insert their penises into the soft tissues at the back of the victim’s shell), with sharks and even eels.”

2.  It gets rough.

Turtle foreplay can involve a lot of biting. In their book, Turtles of the United States and Canada, Carl H. Ernst and Jeffrey E. Lovich describe the turtle mating ritual: First, the male circles the female and uses his sense of smell to tell if she’s actually female. Then, the male starts nosing her tail and cloacal (turtle vagina) area. If he’s still interested, the male may start biting the female’s head and neck.

It just gets worse from there. They write: “…If the female moves away during the second phase, he will bite her legs and head and attempt to get in front of her.”

If the turtles are mating in the water, the male can actually drown the female as he tries to position himself on top of her.

3. They could do it in space?

In 1968, a Soviet probe called Zond 5 became the first Soviet spacecraft to orbit the moon and return to Earth. The probe’s cargo include two Russian steppe tortoises. I can’t find a record of whether the tortoises were male or female, but given that they were chosen for research purposes, it makes sense that there would have been one of each.

We don’t know if the tortoises mated in space, but there’s evidence that the tortoises would have been up for it. According to NASA, “It was announced that the turtles (steppe tortoises) had lost about 10% of their body weight but remained active and showed no loss of appetite.”

Active indeed.

Just FYI – you can also find this blog by searching “turtles have intercoarse” and “how turtles get pergnant,” but I don’t recommend it. I will judge you.


About Madeline McCurry-Schmidt

I'm a science writer specializing in biological sciences and animal behavior.
This entry was posted in Reptiles, Sea life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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