If you thought all turtles were created equal, think again. In honour of World Turtle Day, we’ve rounded up some of the world's wildest-looking specimens to really get this shellebration going. 

Eastern spiny softshell turtle

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Image: Tim/Flickr

Although its double-barrel schnoz is probably this turtle's most distinguishing feature, the eastern spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera spiniferaactually gets its name from the bony projections on the front edge of its carapace.

Leatherback sea turtle

Looking into the mouth of a leatherback sea turtle is sort of like staring into the depths of a sarlacc pit. Although it might look a little terrifying, Dermochelys coriacea feasts mostly on jellyfish and other soft prey, and those special tooth-like protrusions in its throat are used to break up its food. These ocean giants can reach lengths of up to two metres (about seven feet) and can weigh 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds).

Roti Island snake-necked turtle

No prizes for guessing where the Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) gets its name. Sadly, this odd-looking animal is highly prized in the pet trade, and as a result, the species is now listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

Spiny turtle

The spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosahas been described as a "walking pin cushion". Its spiky armour helps deter predators like snakes from attacking juvenile turtles, but as these animals grow older, the carapace is worn down and becomes much smoother.


Though the South American Indian name for this side-necked turtle translates to "I kill", it may as well be called "I hide". The mata-mata (Chelus fimbriata) grows a roughened carapace that attracts algae, and as a result, the turtle is often mistaken for an encrusted rock. 

The Mary River turtle

The Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus) wins our award for craziest-looking reptile! As its name suggests, this endangered punk rocker hangs out in the Mary River in south-east Queensland, Australia. That mohawk hairdo comes courtesy of algae from the river, which commonly grows on the turtle's skin.

Florida softshell turtle

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Image: Andrea Westmoreland/Flickr

Take away the elongated neck and snorkel-like nose, and the Florida softshell (Apalone feroxbasically looks like a big brown pancake. Almost entirely aquatic (which is where that snorkel nose comes in handy), the species is increasingly threatened by habitat destruction and harvesting for food, mostly to supply markets in Asia.

Indian flapshell turtle

Equally happy to snack on both flowers and frogs, the omnivorous Indian flapshell turtle (Lissemys punctata) finds its food by digging in the soil with its neck, forelimbs and that strange-looking snout. The species is threatened by harvesting for its meat and eggs.

Header image: Kristi