turtle on a log

Turtles of the World

Hatching March 13, 2020!

Year of the Turtle logoWhen you look at a turtle, you’re witnessing a living relic and a natural marvel. These shelled reptiles predate and outlasted the dinosaurs and have, in typically indomitable fashion, spread to fill almost every ecological niche on Earth. Turtles serve vital roles in seed dispersal and environmental alteration, and cultures around the world revere them as symbols of patience, longevity, wisdom and perseverance.

Although they are loved by many, the 356 species of turtles and tortoises around the world are dwindling due to human activities that alter their habitat and disrupt their populations.

In the all new Turtles of the World gallery, guests will get to know more about these amazing reptiles, from their diversity and their fascinating adaptations to threats to their survival and the ways humans can help safeguard them.

Turtles of North America and Southeast Asia

orange turtle in water

This group of four spacious exhibits features species from two globally recognized “hot spots” of turtle diversity: Southeast Asia and Eastern North America. These stunning habitats feature moving water with above- and below-the-surface viewing angles to catch turtles basking, diving and feeding.

Turtle Nursery

girl viewing turtle nursery

The Tennessee Aquarium is heavily involved in hatching and raising a variety of turtle species with a number of conservation partners. Much like the maternity ward of a hospital, visitors can look through the glass walls of this working lab to engage with Aquarium staff members as they tend to the newest hatchlings in our care.


kids playing with interactive exhibits

Turtles may be beloved for their beautiful shells and charisma, but they are less well known for the important roles they play in their ecosystem and the many threats to their long-term survival. Through interactive displays in this area, turtles will be given due credit for their ecological value, and guest of all ages will discover what imperils turtles and ways they can protect them.
Younger guests can play while they learn through interactive games on touchscreen kiosks and by pretending to be hatchlings in a turtle “nest” featuring hollow, larger-than-life egg shells.

Australian Snake-necks

snake-necked turtles

Found only in Australia and Australasian islands, these turtles are easily identifiable by (and aptly named for) their serpentine-like necks, which are so long they cannot be retracted into their shells. As they leave Turtles of the World, visitors will be able to get a close-up look at these long-time Aquarium favorites as they swim in a new, larger exhibit.

Why Turtles? Why Now?

The Tennessee Aquarium is home to the largest collection of turtles in North America and is at the center of a wide range of turtle research and conservation efforts. Despite outlasting the dinosaurs, however, these shelled reptiles are facing tremendous challenges thanks to human-induced habitat destruction and trafficking to supply a prolific pet and culinary demand.

In light of these challenges and a completely revamped turtle gallery, the Aquarium has declared 2020 to be "The Year of the Turtle." Throughout the year, the Aquarium and several partnering organizations will host events and share content that shines a spotlight on these amazing animals, paying homage to their fascinating biology and charisma while also raising awareness of the obstacles to their survival.