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Humane civilization and nature are irreversibly interconnected, from the oldest texts we can find to the modern days. Nature is all around us, and being at peace with it is one of the ultimate virtues human beings can achieve.

Sadly, we can see that this is not the case in many situations. Thankfully, the awareness of environmental problems has risen significantly recently. The same can be said about both flora and fauna. Animals are essential to the human way of life for a wide array of different reasons.

For instance, many studies show the benefits of owning a pet. But, of course, people choose from many more species besides cats or dogs. But we can see that there is more to turtles than just being pets.

Today, we want to talk about the role of turtles in human civilization from ancient to modern times.

Turtles as Symbols

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In ancient civilizations, turtles were cherished as a symbol of longevity. While there is no definite answer to this question, there are two major reasons scientists believe this was the case. The first one is that the lifespan of turtles is quite long.

Certain species can live for up to 50 years, which is quite long for an animal. Most require up to 30 years to mature and are reproductive for 40 years. But that doesn’t mean that there are examples of turtles living for much longer than that.

The longest-living specimen in the world is a Giant Tortoise called Jonathan, and in 2022, it turned 190. So, you can see that this is a great example of just how long turtles can live. Besides longevity, they symbolized health, healing, and medicine in general.

Our ancestors believed they were key to aging peacefully. Because of their shells, you will see that many civilizations perceived them as a symbol of defense. The shell aims to provide security for many animals who hunt turtles.

Therefore, shells are often depicted as the homes of the turtles. However, the truth is widely different. The shells are interconnected with the animal’s spines and ribs. For that reason, many consider them a symbol of strength and stability.

Turtles and Environment

Scientists have recognized a lot of roles turtles have in ecosystems. They play a major role in interspecific interactions in those ecosystems comprising consumers, prey, competitor, and host. Turtles are crucial for maintaining oceans healthy.

They help with regulating the levels of some species they use as food. Herbivore turtles mainly consume seagrass. By doing so, they prevent the grass from growing too long, which can cause it to suffocate on itself. By keeping seagrass as healthy as possible, turtles help keep the seagrass a significant oxygen provider in the ocean.

Some other species, mainly focused on consuming sponges, help preserve the corals as healthy as possible. Sponges consume them and deny them the chance to grow. Leatherbacks are an interesting sort of turtle since they consume jellyfish.

Unfortunately, jellyfish consume only larvae and eggs, leading to the decline of the fish population, representing quite a big danger. On the other side, it is clear that turtles are also home to many marine organisms that reside in oceans. A good example is small Barnacles that attach themselves to the turtle.

Turtles in Human Diet

Even though the popularity of dishes made of turtles in some parts of the world, studies have shown that consuming them causes negative effects on human health. Turtles usually harbor many environmental contaminants, like cadmium and mercury.

There are two main reasons why they harbor these, the migratory behavior of the animal and their longevity. Both reasons are extremely important. Today, we know that humans are often exposed to higher levels of mercury while consuming seafood.

The levels of mercury found in different turtle species from different parts of the world varies from case to case. Furthermore, other elements play an important role in this regard, like tissue type. Higher levels of mercury are quite severe for human health.

It can cause numerous diseases, from immune system damage to kidneys and lungs. In some cases, it can even be fatal. But that doesn’t mean the environment is the only danger for those consuming turtles. We can find various bacteria in turtle meat that can be equally damaging.

The best-known one is Salmonella. But there are many more to be aware of, like Vibrio, Mycobacterium, and E. Coli. In addition, there are numerous cases of fatal cases of poisoning after consuming sea turtles you can find online.

Turtles as Pets

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Recently, we can see that many ask the question, “are turtles good pets?” There are a lot of conditions that need to be fulfilled before you can provide your little friend with a healthy environment. However, that doesn’t mean that caring for them is not fun.

Some even say these can hardly be perceived as pets but as a long-term investment. The reason is rather simple: they live long lives and tend to grow as long as they are alive. When we buy turtles, we usually get them while they are juveniles.

Therefore, knowing how to handle them while they are young is important. Otherwise, it might lead to premature death. You can find many examples of them shipped by mail; in many cases, they do not survive the trip. That’s why anyone should visit the store and buy one on the spot.

In stores, they are kept in small tanks, which is uncomfortable for them. Before you buy one of these, it is important to determine what sort you want.

In addition, it would help if you educated yourself on the conditions needed for certain species. Thankfully, finding the literature that can help understand all the important information on each species has never been easier than it is today.

In Conclusion

As you can see, the connection between human civilization and turtles is quite strong. Turtles weren’t a significant element in so many civilizations for no reason. People still keep them as pets to this day and age.