How long do turtles live?

Large tortoises and turtles can live to be well more than 100 years old.
Large tortoises and turtles can live to be well more than 100 years old.

By Stacey Venzel

They might not be the fastest individuals on the planet, but turtles are some of the oldest. Elderly turtles roam the planet, beating out grandmas by a landslide.

Life spans are not the same for all turtles, but many rival humans for longevity. Bigger turtles often live longer, too.


Turtles can live for decades, some more than 100 years. Generally, larger turtles like the giant tortoises live longer than smaller species, rounding out a long list of centennial individuals amidst tiny mud turtles that have made it into their thirties. But even tiny box turtles have broken the century mark. The longevity of sea turtles is still undetermined, but many biologists believe that once they reach adulthood, their large size helps prevent predators from attacking them, allowing the possibility for sea turtles to live up to 100 years or more.


An Aldabra tortoise named Adwaitya lived to be 256 years old, the oldest documented turtle. Born in 1750, she died in 2006. However, an alligator snapping turtle was once caught with weaponry lodged in its shell, history allegedly dating it to have lived in the 1700s—nearly 300 years prior to its capture!


Karen Eckert, David Gulko, Sea Turtles: An Ecological Guide (Honolulu, Mutual Publishing, 2004), 26, 30, 32, 45.

Carl J Franklin, Turtles: An Extraordinary Natural History 245 Million Years in the Making (St. Paul, Voyageur Press, 2007), 44-45, 129.

Whit Gibbons, Judy Greene, Turtle: The Animal Answer Guide (Baltimore, The John Hopkins University Press, 2009), 73-75.