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People Just Discovered The Tiniest Turtle Species In The World

They're wider than they are tall 😍

For nearly 20 years, residents of western Mexico have been spotting these tiny turtles. They were so small that most people just passed them off as babies.

But recently, researchers from the Chelonian Research Foundation realized the turtles weren’t youngsters after all — they were their own pint-sized species, the Vallarta mud turtle.

In the shallow ponds and streams they call home, the little turtles are best recognized by their adorable, bulbous shape — and the fact they don’t grow any larger than 4 inches long.

tiny turtle species mexico
A researcher measuring the width of a Vallarta mud turtle's shell | Getty/Ulises Ruiz

"They are wider than they are tall, unlike every other turtle species," Fabio German Cupul, a researcher studying the turtles, told AFP.

It’s taken quite a long time, but the miniscule animals are now getting the official recognition they deserve — and it’s come just when they need it most.

Despite being newly discovered, the species is already considered endangered since all their known habitats have been damaged or destroyed by human development.

tiny turtle species mexico
Two Vallarta mud turtles in their natural habitat | Getty/Ulises Ruiz

As of last month, only one female turtle had been found in the wild since the discovery.

Luckily, now that conservationists know the turtles are at risk, they can create programs to further protect populations they find — and help give these tiny turtles a fighting chance.

To support a plan to help the Vallarta mud turtle, you can make a donation to the Turtle Conservancy.