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Lie-Detector Turtle

A native of the Fr'phe Islands, the Fr'phe Turtle is the world's smallest turtle species, growing no more than 3 inches. This species is more commonly known as the lie-detector turtle, due to an interesting adaptation involving two stripes on their heads. The turtles can detect minute changes in temperature, which will make these stripes change color. Therefore, when the skin of someone holding them changes, the stripes can indicate the person's mood, or even if the person is lying. This adaptation has made the turtles increasingly popular as pets, though recently, the government of the Fr'phe Islands has tried to end turtle trade, as the turtles are difficult to care for and often die at the hands of ignorant pet-owners.

Basic Information


Reaching no more than 3 inches, in adulthood, these turtles are known for their irregularly shaped shells, usually brown or grey, which can often make them look like rocks when they retreat inside. Their bodies are more colorful, being a a darker brown, or sometimes green. Most noticeably, they have two stripes on their heads, just above their eyes, which change color when the turtles sense slight temperature variations. Because, when held by a person, they can notice temperature variations in a person's skin, indicating mood, or even if the person is lying, they have become known as the lie-detector turtle. The Fr'phe Islanders, however, have, throughout history, used the turtles adaptation for a different purpose--to sense slight changes in air temperature and predict incoming storms.

Genetics and Reproduction

When making nests, the Fr'phe turtle seeks to bury her eggs in sand of an appropriate temperature. During mating season, the male turtle will locate sand that he finds suitable and squawk to passing females, who will recognize the temperature of the sand based on the stripes on the male's head. If the stripes are a suitable color, then the female will agree to mate. Then the two turtles will take turn guarding the nest area until the female is ready to lay her eggs, at which point they will both return to the ocean.

Additional Information


Their use as "living lie-detectors" has made the Fr'phe Turtles increasingly popular as pets. They are difficult to obtain because they only live on the Fr'phe Islands, so they are often expensive. They can also be difficult to care for, and each year, many of these turtles die at the hands of ignorant pet owners. The turtles must have a very warm and moist climate, and the use of a heat lamp is necessary to keep these turtles domesticated nearly anywhere outside of the islands. Furthermore, they prefer and thrive in water with specific levels of salinity, and their primary diet is a type of seaweed common to the Fr'phe Islands, though they do eat other plants as well. Also, these turtles are less aquatic than their larger sea turtle cousins, and some land is needed within an aquarium. They do well with an 80/20 water to land ratio.

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Cover image: by Molly Mar


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