Can Turtles See Color?

can turtles see color

Imagine a life without colors. It would have been so different for us. Not being able to see any color and watching everything in black and white is a nightmare for us. If it’s so difficult for us, then now imagine if your turtle can see in black and white only and cannot see any color.

Relax! Many years ago, everyone believed the same. Everyone thought that turtles could see only in black and white. Few even believed that turtles were color blind. Is it true? After so many years of experiments and research, what do scientists have to say about it?

Let us find out everything you need to know about the turtle’s ability to see colors.

Related Article: Are Turtles Smart Or Dumb?

Can turtles see colors?

Yes, Turtles can see colors. It’s proven that turtles can easily differentiate between colors and can see more colors than humans. 

As per studies, turtles and birds consist of red genes that originated from dinosaurs. It gives them exceptional color vision, which felicitates in the differentiation of red shades that are not easily detectable to human eyes.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provided evidence that around 250 million years ago, the “red gene” originated, predating the split of the turtle lineage from the archosaur line runs right the way through turtle and bird evolution. The gene is called CYP2J19, because of which the turtles are attracted to Red. Turtles can see more shades of red than humans.

It’s also proven that turtles can see more colors than a human can. Humans can distinguish between the shades of red such as crimson and scarlet. However, the turtles can see the intermediate colors between these two shades.

As per scientists, turtles and birds are the only land animals with the red gene.

What are the types of colors turtles like or dislike?

We learned that turtles are very fond of red color. But do you know there is another color which turtles love very much? The color is “Yellow”. They like it when they find food of red and yellow color.

For example, Turtles like to munch Bananas. They know it’s yellow in color, so you will get to see a good reaction from your turtle whenever they see anything in yellow color. Turtles usually eat food in color they are attracted to.

Some turtles, however, do not react very well to the orange color. They avoid foods that are orange in color, such as orange fish. Many turtle owners found their turtle hiding in the shell if they were offered something orange in color.

So now you know which color you should keep away from your turtle to keep them happy and cheerful. You can still experiment with different colors to check how they react to those colors.

Can turtles see color underwater?

Yes, turtles can see colors underwater as well.

Turtles have better vision underwater than we do. To learn more about turtle’s vision underwater and if they can see in the dark, you can check out our article: Can Turtles See In The Dark?

Turtles can see additional colors both on land and underwater, due to which they have many benefits. For example, they can easily spot their predators and food underwater. 

Turtle eyes have an iris that can easily adjust to differentiate levels of light and focus on an image. Turtle eyes have special cells that can detect colored lights and movement. They are therefore more attracted to live food such as earthworms. Also, they are attracted to colorful food. As they have movement and color detecting cells, they have a good perception of the things around them.

Do the Red-eared slider have a special vision?

Some animals, like humans, dogs, and cats, have forward-facing eyes, while some have eyes facing sideways that include reptiles like turtles. Other examples are cows and deers.

Most Animals have a Vestibulo-ocular reflex or VOR. That’s a reflex that allows you to maintain your focus on one spot even if your head moves. Not all animals have VOR. VOR works separately based on which directions the animal’s eyes naturally face.

The red-eared slider has lateral eyes but their eye muscles work as if they are front-facing mammals. It’s found that their visual field changes when they retract their heads into their carapaces. When they retract their head, their eyes are more like forward-facing animals, while when extended, their eyes are more like those of side-faced animals. When this happens, it becomes a challenge for the VOR to allow the turtles to maintain their vision on a particular spot.

Turtles have unique biological traits because they can keep a watch even if their head is tucked into their shell. Without this trait, they would be blind to danger if they tucked their head into shells.

What are the different eyes colors of the turtle?

Different species of turtle could have different eye colors. Most male turtles have red color eyes. Some have an orange color, but the most commonly found male turtle eye color is red. Females primarily consist of eyes that are brown or brownish-yellow.

The central American wood turtles consist of bright blue eyes. Some turtles, such as ornate box turtles, have green eyes. Similarly, the cooter has yellow and green eyes.


Turtles consist of the red gene, due to which they can see more of a red color than a human can see. The red gene is originated from dinosaurs. Turtles can see vast shades of colors which helps them spot their predators and food. Turtles love the yellow and red colors. They have special cells to detect movement and colored lights. Turtles have different eye colors based on the species. Turtles also change their color as they grow based on the environment they are living in. They change colors to blend with the environment and for survival.