Nine facts about turtles and tortoises on World Turtle Day

Matilda the Horsfield tortoise, who lives with owner Verity Ward in South Tyneside.
Matilda the Horsfield tortoise, who lives with owner Verity Ward in South Tyneside.
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Celebrated on May 23 each year, World Turtle Day is a global recognition for our friends in the shells.

Launched by American Tortoise Rescue, the initiative aims to increase awareness for the animals, and protect their habitats.

The awareness day began in 2000, and continues to gather support today.

Follow the conversation on Twitter today by using #Shellebrate and #WorldTurtleDay.

Check out our turtle and tortoise facts below - and let us know if you have a pet one at home.

1. According to Live Science, turtles spend most of their lives in water while tortoises are land animals. Terrapins, however, live on land and in water.

Matilda enjoys sprouts and Simon & Garfunkel.

Matilda enjoys sprouts and Simon & Garfunkel.

2. Turtles and tortoises possess an extremely keen sense of smell, Animal Planet said.

3. Most turtle species have five toes on each limb - with only a few breeds as exceptions.

4. Turtles and tortoises have been in existence for millions of years - some were even walking the earth when dinosaurs were around, according to National Geographic.

5. The largest species of sea turtle, according to the WWF, is the leatherback turtle. It weighs between 600 and 1,500 lbs.

The cheeky tortoise.

The cheeky tortoise.

6. Meanwhile, one of the smallest is the speckled Cape tortoise - the shell is little more than three inches long.

7. Red, orange and yellow are thought to be the colours most appetizing to turtles and tortoises.

8. According to Dr Foster Smith, a turtle's shell is made up of more than 60 pieces of bone, pieced together.

9. Hatchlings are baby tortoises which have just broken out of their shells, Pets 4 Homes said.

Matilda will celebrate her third birthday in June.

Matilda will celebrate her third birthday in June.