The lifespan of a Tortoise: How Long Do Tortoises Live?

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: January 6, 2022
Image Credit KOTORICHIKAPHOTO/Shutterstock.com
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Have you ever wondered what a tortoise’s lifespan is? According to scientific studies, the typical lifespan of a pet tortoise is between 50 and 100 years. However, several studies have revealed that wild tortoises can live up to 150 years and beyond. In 2006, a (reportedly) 255-year-old gigantic tortoise named Adwaitya died. Even if that tortoise’s age isn’t correct, a tortoise named Jonathan will turn 190 years old in 2022!

There are numerous species of tortoises worldwide, and they thrive in a variety of temperatures. The actual lifespan of a tortoise is dependent on a variety of factors, including breed, habitat, care, and diet. However, most tortoises are typically quite long-lived.

Tortoise Lifespan, How Long Do Different Types of Tortoises Live?

Pancake Tortoises are one of the world’s most unusual tortoise species. These tortoises live an average of 30 to 60 years in captivity.

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To make things easier, we’ve highlighted some of the most significant elements affecting tortoise lifetime and then included a table listing the typical lifespans of various tortoise species.

Tortoise TypeLifespan
Hermann’s Tortoise50-90 years
Egyptian Tortoise50-100 years
Greek Tortoise50-90 years
Pancake Tortoise50-90 years
Burmese Star Tortoise60-100 years
Sri Lankan Star Tortoise60–100 years
Tortoise lifespan by breed

There are varied tortoise species across the world, but the most long-lived tortoises are giant tortoises. While giant tortoises once lived widely across the world, today they’re found in only two island chains: in Seychelles and the Galapagos islands.

The largest Galapagos tortoises can reached up to 919 pounds. Giant Aldabra tortoises from Seychelles aren’t far behind. These giant tortoise species generally live to the longest ages. The 190-year old giant tortoise Jonathan, is an Aldabra tortoise.

Smaller tortoises can live a long lifespan, but generally less than their giant cousins. Let’s take a look at a handful of popular tortoise species and their lifespans.

Lifespan of Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann’s tortoises are one of the longest-living species of tortoise – with diligent care, they can live for more than 50-100 years. That means that if you get a tortoise as a pet as a child, it may outlast you by decades!

Lifespan of an Egyptian Tortoise

Egyptian tortoises are the smallest of the testudo tortoises, growing to an average length of 5-8 inches. With a lifespan of 50–100 years, they may provide a lifetime of companionship. However, there are other considerations to make before purchasing one as a pet.

Lifespan of The Greek Tortoise

The Greek Turtle is the most well-known species of pet tortoise (Testudo graeca). Surprisingly, these pet tortoises spend just 20 to 40 years in the wild and can live up to 90 years in captivity with proper care.

Lifespan of A Pancake Tortoise

Pancake Tortoises are one of the world’s most unusual tortoise species. These tortoises live an average of 30 to 60 years in captivity.

The pancake tortoise is named for its long, thin, flat shell. With hollow shell bones, the pancake tortoise weighs less than other tortoises, allowing it to be nimble and agile.

Lifespan of the Burmese Star Tortoise

The Burmese Star Tortoise’s longevity is heavily reliant on its care and living circumstances. The average lifespan is between 50 and 100 years for this tortoise species.

Lifespan of the Sri Lankan Star Tortoise

Sri Lankan Star tortoises are popular as pets due to their friendly disposition, gentle temperament, and longevity. Their usual lifespan in captivity is between 50 and 75 years. That is an extended period for a pet to become a member of your house, family, and heart.

How Do Tortoises Live For Such A Long Time?

Sulcata Tortoise in the African desert, walking on rocks.
Tortoises are some of the longest-lived reptiles.

For millions of years, tortoises and turtles have existed, but what makes them such long-lived species?Is their longevity due to their DNA, or does their food play a role? Let’s find out!

Metabolism

Tortoises have a sluggish metabolic rate. Tortoises’ slow metabolism is thought to contribute to their longevity. The ability of the animal to have a slower metabolic rate enables it to consume less energy.

Delayed Reproduction

The age at which tortoises first procreate varies from a few years to as many as 50, with smaller species often reaching sexual maturity earlier. This shows how tortoises are built to take their time in life. As if to prove that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to longevity.

Habitat

Tortoises that dwell in colder environments and have thicker skin may live longer than tortoises that live in warmer environments.

Size

A tortoise’s size is one of its most distinguishing qualities. Larger tortoises live longer than smaller ones. Galapagos tortoises, for example, have been reported to live up to three hundred years (although the official record stands at 190 years)! They still require a nutritious diet, shelter, and an ideal environment to thrive.

How Can You Ensure Your Tortoise Lives a Longer Life?

Slowest Animals In North America
Tortoises require regular exposure to sunlight to remain healthy.

Darren J. Bradley/Shutterstock.com

No matter how much care you provide, if your tortoise lives in a terrible environment, its longevity will be significantly reduced. Below are some tips to ensure your domesticated tortoise lives a long and enjoyable life.

Appropriate Diet

Unfortunately, many tortoises never reach their full lifespans due to improper feeding. You should construct a proper diet as a tortoise owner. There are many options for your tortoise and much of it depends on the type of tortoise you own.

You can purchase pellets designed for tortoises or freeze-dried fish food from your local pet store. The key is to feed in small increments to avoid overfeeding your tortoise.

Cleanliness

You want to ensure the safety and health of your tortoise. Leaving them in old droppings is unsanitary and unhealthy. If you do not carefully clean their enclosure daily, you will end up dealing with a mess.

Clean their enclosures thoroughly before they enter, wash their bedding frequently, and never allow urine to get into the bedding or enclosure.

Russian Tortoise baby on a person's hand.
According to scientific studies, the typical lifespan of a pet tortoise is between 50 and 100 years.

KOTORICHIKAPHOTO/Shutterstock.com

Vitamin D

Tortoises require regular exposure to sunlight to remain healthy. As is well known, sunlight is an excellent source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D also strengthens your pet tortoise’s immune system, allowing it to grow healthy and strong.

No-Stress Environment

If your tortoise is always fearful, it will develop chronic stress and the reptile’s health will suffer. Keep its environment clean, spacious, and filled with things your tortoise will enjoy, including sand, plants, tank decorations, and a clean water source.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article was able to provide you with a better understanding of tortoise life expectancy, and, most importantly, with inspiration to keep your own tortoise for a longer amount of time!

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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