Two saddlebacks going at each other

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The chelonia (testudines) is the group that contains all the world's turtles and tortoises. These animals are very interesting for they are the only vertebrates that have fully enclosed their bodies in a protective shell. Now some might say that armadillos have this type of armor, but armadillos can't tuck into their bodies like chelonians can.

The chelonia comprises about 294 different species. Their diversity is very astounding to note. At first one would think that a body encased in a shell would limit the amount of diversity these animals could have, yet these animals live in nearly every type of habitat in the world. They can be found in areas as different as the Brazilian rainforests to the waters of the arctic.

The chelonia are divided into two suborders. There is the Pleurodires which are commonly called the side-necked or snake-necked turtles. They of course get this name for the way their head and neck fold into their shell. These turtles have the longest necks compared to body size than almost any other animal. The other group is the Cryptodires which are the turtles and tortoises that fold their heads and necks in a U curve which allows for better protection. These are the more numerous of the chelonians alive today, but each suborder is fascinating to learn about.

The chelonia below are listed by their families. Next to the names are a basic description of the types of chelonians to be found there. From there it gets broken up into genera, with a species list to follow. Enjoy!

CHELYDRIDAE The Snapping Turtles
DERMATEMYDIDAE The Central American River Turtle
CHELONIIDAE The Marine Turtles
EMYDIDAE The Freshwater Turtles
KINOSTERNIDAE The American Mud and Musk Turtles
STAUROTYPIDAE The Mexican Musk Turtles
TRIONYCHIDAE The Soft Shelled Turtles
PLATYSTERNIDAE The Big Headed Turtles
CHELIDAE The Snake Necked Turtles
PELOMEDUSIDAE The Afro-American Side Necked Turtles

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