Just like Monkeys and Penguins, people have an odd fascination with turtles. They come off as clumsy, shy and slow, and helpless if turned on their shell, but they also appear wise and spiritualistic at times. They are also among the longest-living animals on the planet. If you want a very elderly funny animal, it's usually going to be a tortoisenote For those that don't know, turtles are at least semi-aquatic and more likely to hunt live prey like fish or insects, while tortoises are land-based and generally herbivores. Chelonians can be used to describe all members of the order.. If they get large enough, they can also qualify as a fantastic transport or living island (or in the case of one series and certain mythologies, the entire world).
Sea turtles in particular are quite popular and are often included as charismatic megafauna for ocean and beach conservation. Giant Tortoises are also quite popular for island conservation, especially the Galapagos Tortoise, which the islands were named after.
They're also notable as the main exception to the Reptiles Are Abhorrent trope, being seen as slow, cute, and non-threatening. A localized exception is the snapping turtle, which isn't generally considered cute, and pretty bad-tempered to boot.
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Comcast Cable has, as their mascots for high speed Internet, the speed-hating Slowskys - a husband and wife turtle couple.
"Mr Turtle, how many lick does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"
Anime and Manga
Squirtle, Torkoal and Turtwig are all examples of turtle Pokémon. Squirtle and Turtwig are both starter Pokemon, and one of the more popular ones in their generation, while Torkoal is the signature Pokemon of gym leader Flannery. Ash, the main character of the series, has had all three of them at one point or another.
Also, 5th generation newcomers Tirtouga and Carracosta.
Dragon Ball had not only Master Roshi, the Turtle Hermit (whose Training from Hell involves wearing huge turtle shells on your back all day), but also his pet turtle, which also happened to be a competent martial artist, and "Baby Gamera".
One of the aliens that the Wolkenritter stole Mana from in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's were giant turtles with metal plates and shells containing rocky protrusions. As one could guess from the description, they weren't the docile type of fictional turtles.
Sopio has the "Time Traveling Tortoise", which reverses play direction.
The Attribute Reptiles, of Yu-Gi-Oh!, are high-cost Monsters that nuke the field of anything not in their attribute when destroyed. Each one takes the form of a different reptile: a crocodile for Fire, a basilisk for Dark, a sea snake for Water, and so on. Three guesses what the Light reptile is, and the first two don't count.
In the various incarnations of Elflord comics the sidhe Windblade has a turtle which he mutates into a goofy bipedal sidekick and names Mister MacTutt.
Many mythologies, particularly Hindu and Native American ones, have the earth on the back of a tortoise. The creature in Hindu Mythology varies quite a bit, but the most well-known version in the West is this guy. Another Hindu turtle of importance is Kurma. While not ubiquitous, this is common enough among Native American cultures for some to propose using the name "Turtle Island" as a truly American (non-European) replacement name for the continent of North America ("America" is derived from some Italian guy's name).
Kusu Island, one of Singapore's several offshore territories, was said to be created when an ancient turtle transformed into an island to save Chinese and Malay sailors when their boat capsized during a storm. To this day, a temple on Kusu Island raises tortoises and turtles alike.
The Japanese folktale about Urashima Taro involves him rescuing a turtle that then takes him to an Undersea Palace.
Also from Japan is the Kappa; basically an anthropomorphic turtle with a few extra features. Essentially a bogeyman of rivers, the Kappa was originally blamed for deaths caused by drowning, and in time evolved a complex mythology of its own. It has a hole on top of its head that carries water, allowing it to survive on land, and hence can be defeated by causing it to spill, loves to eat cucumbers, and according to some sources, eats through its butt. The Koopas from Super Mario Bros. games are based on this legend.
In Greek Mythology, Hermes is associated with turtles/tortoises because he made the first lyre out of a shell.
Great A'Tuin, the multiverse's largest turtle, carries the Discworld on his back through space. With elephants.
Based on Hindu mythology, slightly seasoned for taste with extra elephants.
Also, Small Gods features the Great God Om stuck in the shape of an ordinary tortoise.
Also from a Michael Ende story: Cassiopeia, the wise turtle from Momo who can see half an hour into the future, and communicates by making letters appear on her shell.
The Clutch in the Liaden Universe. Big, ancient, smart turtle species. Very, very polite, but do not mess with them.
In the Redwall book Rakkety Tam, the MacGuffin being sought by the villain is the "Walking Stone", which is the symbol of power in his homeland and must be owned by the king. It turns out to be a tortoise, which is nicknamed "Rockbottom" and adopted as a semi-sapient pet by the heroes. (Ironically, the villain, despite being a savage maniac in all other respects, must have kept pretty good care of it for a cold-blooded animal to survive in the "Lands of Ice and Snow".)
More specifically, in The Dark Tower series the Turtle is one of the old gods/guardians which protect the foundations of the Tower itself.
There's also a small figurine referred to as the "sköldpadda" that is used by the ka-tet; it has hypnotic effects which make people very open to suggestion. The name literally means "turtle" in Swedish, and it was coined by a Swedish diplomat Susannah meets in 1999, and due to its influence he cheerfully gives her directions and money for a hotel stay.
Also in It, where the Losers are sort of the champions of the Turtle. Unfortunately, the Turtle apparently dies in their universe before their Final Battle (although It very well may have been lying to Bill when he said that in an attempt to discourage him although probably not, given the line "Oh, shit, the Turtle really IS dead!"
He also once got lost, and had all kinds of crazy adventures (ran in a marathon, got caught in the middle of a gang war, and mated with another turtle he found) on the way back.
On Stargate Atlantis, Dr. Beckett decides that the ideal pet for him would be turtles, as they don't require much care or space (any animal that did require such would be unfairly served by him and his job) but are still appealing to him. He reveals this when they're leaving on a particularly dangerous mission, and he realizes he never left any instructions that the "baby wee turtles" should be cared for, lamenting, "Ah've prob'ly killed them." Deleted scenes from a later episode establish that the turtles survived, and that after Carson died, they passed into Rodney's care.
Elementary: After his owner is found murdered, Clyde the turtle is taken in by Sherlock Holmes and can be seen wandering around Sherlock's brownstone, or being used as a paperweight.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had an episode where a guy was killed accidentally in the same way as Aeschylus. He was a fringe religion starter who called himself The Steven and got the shell dropped on his bald head.
Dungeons & Dragons had humanoid turtles called tortles (as well as an evil subrace oh-so-imaginatively called snappers) and giant turtles, including the snapping variety.
In second edition there were also giant turtles frequently mistaken for islands. Their inhabitants tended to live in fear of it awakening and submerging.
In the tabletop RPG Werewolf: The Apocalypse, each tribe follows a specific totem whose beliefs, goals, and philosophies match those of the tribe. The extinct Croatan (yes, that Croatan) followed Turtle as their totem, due to their ties to the Earth element and the recurring myth that the world is carried on the back of a turtle. After the tribe's Heroic Sacrifice, Turtle withdrew his support from the werewolves for over 500 years. When the Old World of Darkness line ended, a possible scenario for the end of the world involved Turtle's return.
The Mokole weresaurians once had a chelonian subgroup, the Ao, who gradually disappeared over a period of time from the sixth century BCE to the first century CE. Unlike most fallen Changing Breeds, no-one knows what caused the Ao's disappearance.
Pretty prominently featured with the Koopas from the Super Mario Bros. series. Most of them are intelligent but very nasty, especially Bowser and his kin, but the rank-and-file are still kinda cute and cartoony. After the switch to 3D, numerous good Koopas have turned up as well.
The ancient Sage Ghido from Final Fantasy V is the oldest living creature in the world, supremely wise, monumentally sarcastic (especially towards Bartz) and can engage Exdeath in hand-to-hand combat that leaves the young adventurers positively flabbergasted. He still needs help flipping over if knocked on his back, though.
World of Warcraft has turtle beasts, typically immense and fanged, with heavy armour. Wild turtles can be tamed as Hunter pets and as one can expect, are good for tanking. Lastly, one of the trading card bonuses is a ridable turtle without any requirements, but it's not any faster than walking (and recently, a new turtle mount has been introduced, which is obtainable by fishing and gives movement speed bonuses only while swimming). One quest involves two talking turtles as well.
One dungeon has a turtle for a boss, called Ghamoo-ra. Another turtle in the wild is called Gammerita. Unlike Gamera, both are very much hostile, though.
Even larger turtles are or have been used as ships by the Horde and the tuskarr of Northrend. In Cataclysm we get to meet the even larger turtle ancient Tortolla (and combat his Evil Twin Nemesis, who is also on fire), and Mists of Pandaria takes it even further with Shen-zin Su, a Turtle Island of massive proportions.
The Pandaren's racial mount is a dragon turtle as well, and comes in the normal and epic speeds like any other. This averts the usual perception of turtles as slow, since they are indeed capable of sprinting when necessary.
The Touhou series used to feature a flying turtle named Genji as main character Reimu Hakurei's main method of transportation. He has not been seen since the series migrated to Windows and Reimu learned to fly on her own. Word Of God is that he now lives in a pond behind the shrine.
The Ninth Colossus from Shadow of the Colossus, a really, really big turtle/tortoise, is very nasty. Also one of the hardest Colossi in the game.
Bentley from Sly Cooper. Even after he loses the use of his legs in the second game, he still proves to be essential to the Cooper Gang.
The Turtle Tamer is a class in Kingdom of Loathing. Live turtles are also used in lieu of helmets, apparently without any harm to the turtle. You can even get them upgraded with linoleum or chrome plating.
In 3D games of the Tales Series, truck-sized tortoises are a common monster type. They tend to not be very threatening, due to moving and attacking slowly, and being very large targets. Tales of Symphonia has the enemies called turtles and their Tethe'allan counterparts crush turtles.
In Monster Hunter, one common source of meat is the peculiar turtle/dinosaur cross known as an Apceros. They're also one of the few herbivores which will actually chase and attack the player on sight - albeit verrry slooooowly.
Psychonauts: Mr. Pokeylope, an infantile old lady's pet with a deep voice and a mind full of stratagems. "That's right baby, Daddy's here. Everything's going to be alllllright."
Tiptup from Diddy Kong Racing, considered to be one of the best drivers in the game. He proved to be popular enough to have cameos in a later series starring one of his fellow racers, Banjo-Kazooie.
In Aquaria, you ride an Ancient Turtle to speed-travel. The game also has an entire cave full of peaceful turtles, looked over by a gigantic Turtle Mother.
In Super Metroid, there are several turtles in one room in Maridia, a large one and several smaller ones. The smaller ones, presumably children, are docile, but the larger one can go Mama Bear on you if you're not careful.
In Infocom's Enchanter, a turtle is one of the friendly creatures you encounter, and its shell combined with a haste...er, exex...spell make it a useful ally in getting one necessary item.
In Robo Aleste, the Stage 6 boss is a gunship shaped like a turtle, with a retractable head.
The Lord of the Rings Online has a variety of giant turtles, most of which toss characters across the map. Notable turtles include one of the harder mid-level quest instances (The Tomb of Elendil) and Nornuan, a turtle that is an entire raid unto itself.
Guild Wars has the Luxon. Their turtle clan builds nomadic cities on the backs of giant land tortoises, and they strap cannons to turtles to make mobile siege platforms.
Kickle Cubicle has a turtle enemy named Myrtle that likes to drop into its shell and charge.
Squirtle, a water-shooting turtle is one of the starters in the first two games; it was pretty popular, likely because it evolves into Blastoise, a giant turtle with cannons on it's shell. Another turtle starter, grass Turtwig was available in Pokemon Diamond And Pearl.
The fifth generation adds Tirtouga and Carracosta, based on the prehistoric Archelon.
In the Mahou Daisakusen series, turtles bear cannons, tanks, and sometimes whole fortresses.
The Zeshrayda from Phantasy Star Online 2 is a massive bipedal turtle with rocket thrusters in its shell, cannons on its back, and a demonic-looking face on both sides of its shell. It calls to mind a certain other giant turtle rather readily, though this one is most definitely not a friend to all children..
Everybody in Tower of God, if you believe Rak Wraithraiser. He refers to anybody but Anak as 'turtles', often in a derogatory fashion. The best thing about it? He's a giant alligator that hunts and fights so-called strong turtles in order to become stronger himself.
Hendo Lok Bloodmadder, a man obsessed with immortality, who has after achieving his goal been given the moniker long-life sea turtle, because of turtles renowned longevity.
In Bee and Puppycat, the man at the Temp Agency has a room full of turtle posters and a pet turtle.
Crush and his offspring Squirt from Finding Nemo. Bonus points for being both the laid-back Ninja Turtle type and the wise old mentor at the same time.
Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda is wise beyond all others, the inventor of Kung Fu, and badass enough to drop the nigh-unstoppable Tai Lung with a lightning-fast nerve strike pattern. All he needs now is a bandanna and a name based on a Renaissance artist...
Gets elaborated on in The Legend Of Korra. Not only are the Lion Turtles the source of all bending, but they provided sanctuary for the humans back when the spirits colonized the planet and turned it into a Death World.
On ''Futurama, in "Crimes of the Hot", Bender is moved by the plight of African turtles migrating to Holland because of global warming because they remind him of the one he loves the most: himself. "We both have a tough outer shell, but live a rich inner life. Also... I can't get up if I fall on my back."
Fry - "But I've seen you get up when you're on your back before"
Bender - "Those times I was slightly on my side."
Bender - "We pollute too much! We're hurting the planet and killing the turtles!" (Holds up said turtle)
In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Rainbow Dash gets a tortoise she names Tank after she held a competition. While the tortoise failed to impress her in speed or coolness, he proves to be the most dedicated when he ends up saving her from an avalanche. To counteract the fact that tortoises can't fly, Tank gets modified with a helicopter rotor that straps to his shell.
Sheldon from Family Guy. A turtle who seems to have an extreme dislike for Stewie.
A 5th century B.C.E. Greek writer (claimed to be the founder of Greek tragedy), Aeschylus, was reportedly killed when an Eagle, attempting to crack open a turtle shell, mistook Aeschylus's bald head for a rock and dropped the turtle on it. Despite the fact that Aeschylus was killed instantly, the turtle lived. Turtles > Greek Writers.
Anything capable of living more than a century and a half has to be pretty cool.
Any animal that decides to grapple and chew on one should beware of a horror-filled revenge.
The largest known turtle to have existed, Archelon, lived in the Cretaceous Niobrara Basin. The largest Archelon fossil, found in the Pierre Shale of South Dakota in the 1970s, measures more than 4 metres (13 ft) long, and about 4.9 metres (16 ft) wide from flipper to flipper.
On average, the freshwater turtle species Stupendemys was even larger, with an estimated average carapace length of 3.3 metres (11 feet) and an even greater width. A "stupendous" turtle, indeed!
The largest living turtle is no less incredible. The Leatherback Sea Turtle holds a number of records, including being the largest living turtle, the most widespread reptile and surprisingly enough, the fastest reptile. That's right, the fastest reptile is a turtle (in the water of course).
Turtles can live without eating for a ridiculous long time. Many species in temperate zones don't really hibernate, they just stop eating and move very little during the cold months. Centuries ago, giant turtles were often rounded up in islands by passing sailors, carried to the ships and left upside down for months so they couldn't move, one on top of the other, until they were killed and eaten when the crew run out of food. The turtles were never fed during the time aboard.
Even though turtles are reptiles and obviously don't have gills, pet sliders can spend up to 4 hours underwater without breathing air. Part of it is because of their low metabolism, part is because there are areas of their skin that are thin enough to get oxygen directly from the water and into their blood. One of the most efficient areas is around the anus.
Several sea turtles not only are immune to jellyfish stings, but even eat jellyfish (or similar creatures) as part of their diets. Considering the many, many nasty things jellyfish stings can do to you (such as never-ending agony or instant death), this is a good thing.