Sex of reptiles

How to Know Whether a Turtle is Male or Female

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Know Whether a Turtle is Male or Female

In the animal kingdom, male and female animals tend to be different physically, what's called sexual dimorphism. Typically, these differences between the sexes are more significant in mammals, and in some species of birds (like parakeets) than in reptiles, so it's difficult to know whether a turtle is a male or female. At we'll give you some hints to help you distinguish between the two.

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  1. The plastron
  2. Size
  3. The cloaca opening
  4. Water or land turtles

The plastron

It's the first thing to notice when determining the sex of a turtle. The plastron is the ventral part of the turtle, in other words, the bottom part of the shell that protects the belly.

In the males, it's more or less concave, to facilitate reproduction, and fits better over the top of the female's shell during mating. While the females' plastrons are flat or convex, depending on the species.

How to Know Whether a Turtle is Male or Female - The plastron


Another factor to consider when finding out whether a turtle is male or female is to calculate the length of the tail. The tail of the male is longer and thicker than that of the female. In addition, certain species of male turtles have a scale at the tip.

Generally, the females are larger than the males, so observing and comparing the difference in size can be decisive in establishing the turtle's sex.

How to Know Whether a Turtle is Male or Female - Size

The cloaca opening

The cloaca opening or vent, is the hole located at the base of the tail where the penis enters during mating. Observing this part of the turtle's body will also help to determine the turtle's gender.

If you pick up one of the males and turn it upside down, you can see that the opening is closer to the tip of the tail, while in the females, it's closer to the base of the tail (more towards the body of the turtle), where it hides inside the shell, making it difficult to see.

How to Know Whether a Turtle is Male or Female - The cloaca opening

Water or land turtles

In addition to knowing whether a turtle is male or female, it's important to determine whether the turtle you have at home is a water or a land species. To determine what type it is, notice two basic elements:

  • The shell. Depending on the environment where they live, a turtle's shell will have certain characteristics. For example, a water turtle will have a smooth shell because this helps with the displacement of water; while a land turtle will have a rougher, more uneven shell.
  • The feet also indicate what type of turtle it is. Water turtles have membranes between their feet, which helps them to swim and which are actually flippers; while land turtles lack these membranes because they don't need them in their natural habitat.

At we'll give you some other indications that'll help you raise a pet turtle, like how to feed turtles, how to clean a turtle and how to look after a turtle.

How to Know Whether a Turtle is Male or Female - Water or land turtles

If you want to read similar articles to How to Know Whether a Turtle is Male or Female, we recommend you visit our Pets category.

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How to Know Whether a Turtle is Male or Female