How Far Can Turtles See? (Good or Bad Eyesight)

  • Author: Liana Carroll
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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The topic of eyes will either seem boring or interesting depending on who you ask and in what context. Through evolution, species (including humans) have evolved to maximize one of their main senses in vision with some creatures like a hawk or eagle having significantly better eyesight than say, another flighted creature like a bat. 

As a pet owner, you might have noticed that your turtle seems to respond to you entering the room and as a result, many turtle owners have gone on to wonder do they have good eyesight and just how far can they actually see?  

Turtles in general have very good eyesight, they can distinguish between color on a much broader spectrum than what a human can see including ultraviolet light and are while they can see far in water, they are typically short sighted when on land. 

Turtles’ eyes are interestingly unique and in this article, we’ll not only look into how far a turtle can see but also the more intricate details that allow turtles to actually have really good eyesight (most of the time). 

Do Turtles Have Good Eyesight

Turtles not only have good eyesight but they also possess unique vision capabilities and can see colors that a human cannot even conceptualize. 

We won’t get into a debate over who has the best eyesight in this article but what we will say is that turtles, and in particular certain species of turtle, have very good eyesight that might surprise you. 

Firstly, a typical eyesight associated question is whether or not a turtle can see colors and this quick youtube video below will show how a turtle has been trained to respond specifically to color which certainly acts as a plus point to the turtle’s eyesight!

Many species of turtle can also see a broader spectrum of colors that a human cannot visualize or imagine as they can also see ultraviolet (UV) light, though we are not sure how they have evolved to use this to their advantage

A turtle can see very well inside of water and it can also see outside of water (though they are short sighted on land) whilst they can also see in the dark. 

What is potentially most interesting about some species of turtle, particularly a pond turtle, when it comes to eyesight is that they can adapt their vision depending on when their head is inside or outside of their shell. 

Essentially they can adapt and switch between forward-facing eyesight like what you find in humans and cats when their head it retracted inside the shell and will have sideward facing eyes when their head is outside of their shells. 

This relies more on the actual eye muscles and while we appreciate it has nothing to do with eyesight directly, it’s still an impressive and unique feature in relation to a turtles eyesight.

How Far Can Turtles See

So, if you’ve just read the above then it’s quite evident that turtles have very impressive eyesight, even if we can’t quite determine the level of it just yet and It’s quite difficult to actually determine just how far a turtle can see, the key reason being that there have not been any studies specific to this. 

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That’s not the only reason for our lack of a clear answer though as turtles are very sensitive to vibrations and while an observer might think that a turtle has seen something from a great distance away and gone to hide, it could be just as likely that they have felt the vibrations from a human or object which has then triggered the response to hide.

What we do know from multiple pet owners and limited studies, however, is that turtles in general do have excellent eyesight underwater and are far sighted underwater to hunt for food, navigate their environment and even seek out a mate. 

On land, however, most species of turtle are actually near sighted and rely on other senses like smell and the feeling of vibrations in the area to compensate for the fact that they are near sighted.

Round Up

After reading the above I’m sure you can agree with us when we say that turtles appear to have really good eyesight. Unfortunately, there has not yet been a test to show just how far a turtle can see either on land or in water. 

What we do know, however, is that a turtle can easily see its immediate surrounding area when housed in captivity as a pet, the broader spectrum of colors that they can see also suggests that they potentially have better eyesight than humans, though this is more related to eyesight underwater. 

Until further studies are done, we won’t know an exact distance that a turtle can see and have to rely on a more vague interpretation of being far sighted under water and near sighted on land.

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