How to Tell the Age of a Turtle | Age Determination

Tortoise and turtles are undoubtedly the longest living animals in the Planet Earth. So, if you want to pet them, you should be ready with a lifetime commitment. However, sometimes as a pet owner, you may want to know the age of the turtles.

Unless the turtle has born and grown up in front of you, it’s incredibly challenging to determine the age of a turtle. So, today we will breakdown the methods of how to tell the age of a turtle.

So, are you up for it?

How to Tell The Age of a Turtle: Two Effective Methods?

Till now, scientists haven’t come up with any definitive technique to know the exact age of a turtle. The whole process of determining the age of a turtle is a rough estimation. As such, the estimated age may vary slightly, but this isn’t an issue of concern.

People, especially turtle owners and environmentalists, follow two steps to measure the age of a turtle. These two standard accepted methods are:

  1. Ring counting method
  2. Size checking method

Now, I am going to discuss the two ways in detail.

Ring Counting Method

It’s the most widely accepted method to count the age of a turtle. In it, you need to calculate the rings of the turtle and then do a simple calculation to estimate the age of your turtle.

Step 1: Picking The Scute For Counting

Whenever we talk about determining the age of a turtle by counting its ring, we must understand the proper meaning of ‘scute.’ The scutes are located at the top of the turtle’s shell covering and protecting the shell.

The rings or circles are usually within the scute. Oh, did I tell you that scutes are also known as carapaces?

Note: The ring counting is a rough estimation of the turtle’s age since the rings may grow for various reasons other than being older. For instance, if a turtle experiences a feminine or is a part of the feast, on both occasions, the ring will increase in number. This means, the rings instead of growing in summer and winter may also increase when a turtle was over or underfed.

Step 2: Counting The Rings

Now, you need to count the rings of your turtle. In general, you will see two types of rings on a turtle’s carapace. The broader rings suggest summertime when the turtle eats to her satisfaction. On the contrary, the narrower rings suggest the wintertime when the turtle went to hibernation and ate less food.

Also, the rings may vary in color. In some species, the colors are more prominent, while in other species, it’s hardly visible. For instance, the babies of the Red-Eared Slider are born with a prominent dark green color ring. But with age, it fades away, and within the next two years, these turn out to a regular brown color scheme.

Step 3: Estimating The Turtle Age

Once you finish the ring counting, you need to divide it by 2. This is because, as you have seen already, there’re two types of rings on a turtle’s carapace- the wider ones and the narrower ones. Once you divide the counted rings by 2, you will roughly get an idea about how old your turtle is.

For example, if you count 12 rings, you need to divide it by 2, which results in 6. This calculation means the turtle is six years old.

Size Checking Method

If a turtle is still at a young age, measuring its size can be a good idea to know about its age. For this, you need to first measure the overall turtle size from the tail to the tip.

However, measuring a turtle isn’t an easy task. It will keep moving, so you need to find a way so that the turtle remains still. Also, you ardently need to make sure that the turtle spreads its head from the shell. You can do it with a favorite meal of the turtle.

Now, use a measuring tape carefully to measure the size. Now carefully check the growth chart to find out the exact age of the turtle. However, you need to find the specific growth chart for a particular species as the size varies from one to another.

For instance, a western-painted turtle will grow about 8 inches in its entire life, whereas; the southern-painted turtle will grow as much as 6 inches only. That’s why you must find the size chart of the exact species. Otherwise, you will get a faulty age of a turtle.

Turtle Age: Some Fun Facts

Scientists believe that a turtle can live up to 300 years. However, to date, we haven’t found a turtle both in captive and wild living for as much as 300 years.

However, a turtle in the wild will live roughly about 80-100 years on average. But they’re a few turtles whose life duration may be older than your 3rd or 4th predecessor. Yes, it’s true.

Jonathan, for instance, is currently 189 years old. It was hatched in 1832 and later brought to Saint Helena. It is believed to be the longest-living alive animal at present on the earth.

On the contrary, Tu’i Malila is thought to have lived from 1777-1966, which is close to Jonathan. The turtle got its name from where it lived its entire life in Malila. Some argue that Tui Malila was a gift to Tongan royal family from Captain Cook in 1717, although researchers have dismissed the idea.


Turtles are long-living animals. They even live longer in a captive state. It is because they get proper nourishment, and nutritious food, and don’t need to fear predators in captivity. This being said, owners often boast of the life duration of their turtles.

So, you must know how to tell the age of a turtle. In this regard, this article should come handy for you. However, if you really want to know more about a turtle, please do visit our webpage section for more information.

We love turtles and so, are gearing up to give you all the crucial information about turtles so that your baby remains safe, healthy, and happy.

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