Fact Check

A Baby Turtle 'Enjoys a Cleaning' in This Viral Vid?

The coin-sized reptile appears to be smiling as it's scrubbed with a toothbrush.

Published Aug 25, 2023

 (X Screengrab/Fascinating)
Image Via X Screengrab/Fascinating
Claim:
A video shared on social media shows a baby turtle as it "enjoys a cleaning" by a toothbrush.
Context

While the video appeared to be authentic — that is, it did not look as though it had been digitally manipulated, and it genuinely depicted a "baby," or juvenile, turtle — it is false to say the reptile was “enjoying" the cleaning with a toothbrush. A turtle expert told Snopes the animal was actually “exhibiting a stress response.”

Tweets that circulated in mid-August 2023 claimed to show footage of "a baby turtle [as it] enjoys a cleaning." The clip depicted a half-dollar-sized turtle being scrubbed by a toothbrush and had received tens of millions of views:

Snopes found through a reverse-image search that the video had been in circulation on a variety of social media platforms — including Reddit, TikTok, and Imgursince at least 2021. Though not all of the posts with the video made the same claim that the turtle was enjoying its bath, some did, including the below TikTok video which stated, "if turtles could giggle" to imply that the reptile was joyful:

 

@hayleybrown371 If turtles could giggle ?? #turtle #laugh ♬ original sound - Hayley Brown

Although the video appeared to be authentic — as in, we don't have any reason to believe it was digitally manipulated — and it was true that the animal depicted was a "baby turtle," or juvenile, it was not enjoying the toothbrush cleaning, as some posts claimed. For those reasons, we rated this claim "Mixture."

Instead of expressing positive feelings, the turtle was actually stressed, according to Jordan Gray, executive coordinator for the Turtle Survival Alliance. (That agency is a task force for the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, which works to conserve all species of tortoises and freshwater turtles.)

After watching the video, Gray told Snopes: "While it is easy to anthropomorphize that an animal enjoys an activity that humans do, in this case, the turtle is not enjoying the activity. [It] views the toothbrush as a threat and is exhibiting a stress response."

Gray identified the turtle species in the video as a juvenile loggerhead musk turtle (scientific name Sternotherus minor). Named for its strong jaw, the loggerhead turtle is found in southeastern U.S states. In adulthood, loggerhead musk turtles can grow to be 4.5 inches long, according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory at the University of Georgia. 

Sources

"Hayley Brown on TikTok." TikTok, https://www.tiktok.com/@hayleybrown371/video/7076393081511136518. Accessed 21 Aug. 2023.

"Https://Twitter.Com/Fasc1nate/Status/1691581785111777503." Twitter, https://twitter.com/fasc1nate/status/1691581785111777503. Accessed 21 Aug. 2023.

"Imgur: The Magic of the Internet." Imgur, https://imgur.com/new/time. Accessed 21 Aug. 2023.

Species Profile: Stripeneck / Loggerhead Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Minor) | SREL Herpetology. http://srelherp.uga.edu/turtles/stemin.htm. Accessed 21 Aug. 2023.

Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. https://iucn-tftsg.org/. Accessed 21 Aug. 2023.

"Turtle Survival Alliance." Turtle Survival Alliance, https://turtlesurvival.org/. Accessed 21 Aug. 2023.

xSoulsaber. "Tiny Turtle Getting Cleaned." R/Aww, 26 Feb. 2022, www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/t25nx2/tiny_turtle_getting_cleaned/.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.

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