14 Difference Between Turtle And Tortoise (With Pictures)

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Turtle

Turtles are reptiles with hard shells that protect them from predators. They are among the oldest and most primitive groups of reptiles, having evolved millions of years ago. There are approximately 356 species of turtles. Turtles can both move around on land and swim in water. They move slowly on land, but they can swim at a fast speed in the water. They can survive indefinitely underwater without surfacing for air.

Turtle

Turtles tend to have webbed feet for swimming. Sea turtles (Cheloniidae family) are especially adapted for an aquatic life, with long feet that form flippers and a streamlined body shape. They rarely leave the ocean, except when the females come ashore to lay their eggs, although some species, such as the green sea turtle, do come out on reefs and beaches to bask. Other turtles live in fresh water, like ponds and lakes. They swim, but they also climb out onto banks, logs, or rocks to bask in the sun. In cold weather, they may burrow into the mud, where they go into torpor until spring brings warm weather again.

The upper shell of the turtle is called the carapace. The lower shell that encases the belly is called the plastron. The carapace and plastron are joined together on the turtle’s sides by bony structures called bridges. The inner layer of a turtle’s shell is made up of about 60 bones that include portions of the backbone and the ribs, meaning the turtle cannot crawl out of its shell. In most turtles, the outer layer of the shell is covered by horny scales called scutes that are part of its outer skin, or epidermis. 

The colour of a turtle’s shell may vary. Shells are commonly coloured brown, black, or olive green. In some species, shells may have red, orange, yellow, or grey markings and these markings are often spots, lines, or irregular blotches. One of the most colorful turtles is the eastern painted turtle which includes a yellow plastron and a black or olive shell with red markings around the rim.

Turtles vary widely in size, although marine turtles tend to be relatively big animals. The largest chelonian is a marine turtle, the great leatherback sea turtle, which can reach a shell length of 200  cm (80  inches) and can reach a weight of over 900  kg (2,000  lb, or 1 short ton). Freshwater turtles are smaller, with the largest species being the Asian softshell turtle Pelochelys cantorii, which has been reported to measure up to 200 cm or 80 inches.

Turtles are generally omnivores. They have a rigid beak. Turtles use their jaws to cut and chew food. Instead of teeth, the upper and lower jaws of the turtle are covered by horny ridges. They eat leaves, algae, grasses, fruits, vegetables, worms, insects, seaweed, jellyfish, urchins, mollusks, small fish etc. Turtles are very adaptive and can be found on every continent, except Antarctica. Most turtle species are found in southeastern North America and South Asia. 

Turtle

Facts About Turtle

  • Turtles generally live or spend lots of time in water.
  • Turtles generally have lighter shells on their backs.
  • With exception of box turtles, all other Turtles have shells that are relatively flat, thin and streamlined, to help them swim and dive.
  • Turtles shed their scutes to remove old growth and make room for new scutes to grow through underneath.
  • Turtles have feet that are either webbed with long claws to help them latch onto floating objects and climb in and out of water or in case of aquatic turtles, there are true flippers rather than feet.
  • Due to their streamlined shells and webbed feet or flippers, turtles are excellent swimmers.
  • Turtles are generally omnivores; they eat leaves, grasses, fruits, vegetables, worms, insects, seaweed, jellyfish, urchins, mollusks, small fish etc.  
  • Turtles are generally larger than tortoises; the largest turtle is the leatherback turtle. It can weigh anywhere between 300 to 700 pounds.
  • Turtle hatchlings stay in their nest on their own for 90-120 days.
  • The average lifespan for a turtle is around 40 years, with larger sea turtles averaging around 65 years.
  • Turtles are found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Examples of Turtle species include: Olive ridley turtle, green turtle, leatherback turtle, African helmeted turtle, Roti Island snake-necked turtles, sea turtle etc.

Tortoise

Tortoises are land turtles that live in a variety of habitats, ranging from deserts to rain forests, in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Madagascar and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Their diet mainly consists of grasses, fruits, flowers and other vegetation, although some species also eat carrion. The average lifespan varies by species, with gopher tortoises living over 40 years and giant tortoises living to be over 120 years old.

Tortoise

Tortoises have feet that are padded and stumpy, with horned, scaly toes, looking a little like elephant feet. The shape of their feet helps them to carry out their weight on land. Due to their heavy, domed shaped shells, Tortoises do not have ability to swim and tend to stay away from water except when drinking and bathing.

Most tortoises have a large dome-shaped shell that makes it difficult for predators to crush the shell between their jaws. One of the few exceptions is the African pancake tortoise which has a flat, flexible shell that allows it to hide in rock crevices. There are roughly 40 to 50 species of tortoises, which all belong to the Testudinidae family. Some tortoise species include the Galapagos giant tortoise, desert tortoise, yellow-footed tortoise and radiated tortoise.

Tortoises have thick, short legs and a heavy carapace, or shell. Their coloring ranges from dull grays and browns to brighter shades of yellow and green. Tortoises come in a wide range of sizes, depending on the species. Smaller tortoises, such as the parrot-beaked tortoise, have an average shell length of 4 inches and only weigh a few pounds. Larger species, such as the Aldabra giant tortoise, have a shell length of 47 inches and can weigh up to 550 pounds.

Tortoises are generally herbivores, with their diet varying depending on species and age. They eat a wide range of diet including leaves of plants, weeds, grasses, fruits, vegetables etc. Tortoises are found everywhere except Antarctica and Australia.

Tortoises usually spend part of the day searching for food and stay in their burrows at night. They also hibernate in these burrows during winter. While some species, such as the desert tortoise, spend almost all of their time in their burrows throughout the year, other tortoises, including the Galapagos giant tortoise, regularly roam farther from home in groups to swim and look for food.

Tortoise

Facts About Turtle

  • Tortoises are predominantly land-dwelling species.
  • Tortoises have relatively heavier and robust shells.
  • Tortoises have rounded dome-shaped shells to provide protection from predators.
  • Tortoises do not shed anything from their shells. Their keratin is constantly growing without shedding, pushing up old growth to give the shell a layered look.
  • Tortoises have feet that are padded and stumpy, with horned, scaly toes, looking a little like elephant feet. The shape of their feet helps them to carry out their weight on land.
  • Tortoises do not have ability to swim and tend to stay away from water except when drinking and bathing. Because of their heavy, domed shaped shells, they can’t swim.
  • Tortoises are generally herbivores, with their diet varying depending on species and age. They eat a wide range of diet including leaves of plants, weeds, grasses, fruits, vegetables etc.
  • Tortoises are generally smaller than Turtles. The largest tortoise is the Aldabra giant tortoise, with adult males weighing an average of 250 pounds.
  • Tortoise hatchlings move from their nest immediately after hatching.
  • Tortoises have an average lifespan of 100 years; however, there are tortoises that are known to live between 150-200 years.
  • Tortoises are found everywhere except Antarctica and Australia.
  • Examples of Tortoise species include: Leopard tortoise, Aldabra giant tortoise, gopher tortoise etc.

Also Read: Difference Between Amphibian And Reptiles

Difference Between Turtle And Tortoise In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON TURTLE TORTOISE
Habitat Turtles generally live or spend lots of time in water.   Tortoises are predominantly land-dwelling species.  
Shell They generally have lighter shells on their backs.   They have relatively heavier and robust shells.  
Shell-Shape With exception of box turtles, all other Turtles have shells that are relatively flat, thin and streamlined, to help them swim and dive.   They have rounded dome-shaped shells to provide protection from predators.  
Shell-Shedding They shed their scutes to remove old growth and make room for new scutes to grow through underneath.   They do not shed anything from their shells. Their keratin is constantly growing without shedding, pushing up old growth to give the shell a layered look.  
Feet They have feet that are either webbed with long claws to help them latch onto floating objects and climb in and out of water or in case of aquatic turtles, there are true flippers rather than feet.   They have feet that are padded and stumpy, with horned, scaly toes, looking a little like elephant feet.
Swimming Due to their streamlined shells and webbed feet or flippers, turtles are excellent swimmers.   They do not have ability to swim and tend to stay away from water except when drinking and bathing.
Food They are generally omnivores. They are generally herbivores, with their diet varying depending on species and age.
Size They are generally larger than tortoises. They are generally smaller than Turtles.
Hatchlings Their hatchlings stay in their nest on their own for 90-120 days.   Their hatchlings move from their nest immediately after hatching.  
Lifespan The average lifespan for a turtle is around 40 years, with larger sea turtles averaging around 65 years.   They have an average lifespan of 100 years; however, there are tortoises that are known to live between 150-200 years.
Distribution They are found on every continent except Antarctica.   They are found everywhere except Antarctica and Australia.  
Examples Olive ridley turtle, green turtle, leatherback turtle, African helmeted turtle, Roti Island snake-necked turtles, sea turtle etc Leopard tortoise, Aldabra giant tortoise, gopher tortoise etc.  

Similarities Between Turtle And Tortoises

  • Both turtles and tortoise are very adaptive animals.
  • Turtles and tortoises are found primarily in tropical and semi-tropical climates.
  • They are both encased in a bony shell with scutes (thickened horny or boned plates) made of keratine.
  • Both have a pelvic girdle that sits inside their rib cage.
  • Both lay eggs on land into excavated nests of earth or sand.
  • Both have a hard beak rather than teeth.
  • Tortoises and Turtles are both cold-blooded, relying on their environment to regulate their body temperature.
  • Both have ribs and vertebrae that are fused to their shells.