Turtle vs. Tortoise: What’s The Difference Between Turtle And Tortoise?

What's the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? While they may look similar, there are some key differences. Turtles are typically found in water, while tortoises live on land. Read more here.
Turtle vs. Tortoise: 7 Key Differences, Pros & Cons, Similarities

Turtle vs. Tortoise: Both turtle and tortoise are reptiles from the Testudines order. But they belong to different families of classification. And if we talk about turtle versus tortoise, both are different from each other in many ways. The main difference between turtle and tortoise is that turtle mostly lives in the water, while tortoise prefers land.

Let’s take a closer look at Tortoise vs. Turtle

Belongs toBoth turtle and tortoise belong to the order of Testudines
Shielded ByA shell shields the bodies of both
WeightTortoises are generally heavier than the turtle
Lives inTurtle mostly lives in the water, while tortoise lives on land

What Is a Turtle?

What Is a Turtle? If we look at the turtle meaning, it can be defined as a reptile whose body is encased within a bony shell. Although there are a lot of invertebrate animals and mammals, which have evolved shells, none of them has architecture like a turtle. The top of the shell of the turtle is known as a carapace, and the lower shell is known as a plastron. Both of these are the bony structure and join one another along with each side of the body, which creates a rigid skeleton box. This skeleton box is composed of cartilage and bone and is retained throughout the turtle's life. The turtles cannot shed the shell or exit from it because it is an integral part of their body. There are almost 365 species of turtle which live on the land and on all of the other continents except Antarctica.

If we look at the turtle meaning, it can be defined as a reptile whose body is encased within a bony shell. Although there are a lot of invertebrate animals and mammals, which have evolved shells, none of them has architecture like a turtle. The top of the shell of the turtle is known as a carapace, and the lower shell is known as a plastron. Both of these are the bony structure and join one another along with each side of the body, which creates a rigid skeleton box. This skeleton box is composed of cartilage and bone and is retained throughout the turtle’s life. The turtles cannot shed the shell or exit from it because it is an integral part of their body. There are almost 365 species of turtle which live on the land and on all of the other continents except Antarctica.

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What Is a Tortoise?

What Is a Tortoise? If we look at the tortoise meaning, it can be defined as a reptile which has a hard shell on its body to protect itself from its predators and other threats. Tortoises belong to the Testudinidae family and have a hard shell as compared to the members of its suborder. Tortoises also have the ability to move their neck and head directly back into the shell to protect themselves. Tortoises can vary in size. Some species of tortoise, like the Galapagos Giant Tortoise, can grow more than 1.2 meters in length. At the same time, some species, like Speckled Cape Tortoise, have only 6.8 centimeters long shells. Like Aldabra Giant Tortoise, various tortoises also evolve a large body size of more than 100 kg. Tortoises are one of the longest-living animals present on the land. Galapagos tortoises are noted to live for more than 150 years.

If we look at the tortoise meaning, it can be defined as a reptile which has a hard shell on its body to protect itself from its predators and other threats. Tortoises belong to the Testudinidae family and have a hard shell as compared to the members of its suborder. Tortoises also have the ability to move their neck and head directly back into the shell to protect themselves. Tortoises can vary in size. Some species of tortoise, like the Galapagos Giant Tortoise, can grow more than 1.2 meters in length. At the same time, some species, like Speckled Cape Tortoise, have only 6.8 centimeters long shells. Like Aldabra Giant Tortoise, various tortoises also evolve a large body size of more than 100 kg. Tortoises are one of the longest-living animals present on the land. Galapagos tortoises are noted to live for more than 150 years.

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6 Key Differences Between Turtle and Tortoise

ComponentsTurtleTortoise
ShellAs turtles prefer to live within the water, their shell has a flat and streamlined structure which helps in swimming and diving.Tortoises mostly live on land. Therefore their shell is dome-shaped and hard, which protects them from land threats.
Physical CharacteristicsTurtle has a streamlined shell with limbs similar to the tortoise, but the feet of turtles are webbed and have long claws which help them to grab the floating logs and to climb to the riverbanks.The tortoise has short and sturdy feet. Its legs are bent rather than straight and present directly under the body. The head and neck of the tortoise can move back inside the shell in case of danger. 
DietA turtle does not have any specific diet. It can be both herbivores and carnivores.As tortoises prefer to live on the land, it has to feed on plants as herbivores.
ReproductionThe eggs of the turtles are soft and have a leather-like structure like all the other reptile’s eggs. The turtle hatchling stays within the nest on its own for almost 90-120 days.Female tortoises dig burrows and lay 2 to 12 eggs in them. The hatchling takes almost 9-120 days to incubate within the ball-sized egg.
LifespanThe common life span for a turtle is 25-35 years, but sea turtles can live 20-30 more years than that as they take a lot ofTime to reach maturity.Tortoises can live a long life as a human. Some species of tortoise are known to live for 150 years.
Geographical DistributionTurtles are mostly found in Africa and America and in tropical and semi-tropical climates, which are similar to lizards because they require a warmer external temperature to maintain their proper body warmth.Tortoises can be found in Africa and Asia and in entirely warm environments. Tortoises are not hibernating animals, but some species have the ability to limit their metabolism during the time of little food and water.

Turtle vs. Tortoise Similarities

  • Whether it’s turtle or tortoise, both lay eggs on the ground, as the mother will dig a burrow and lay 2-12 eggs there.
  • Both animals can be kept as a pet and require an owner who is ready to make a long commitment.
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Turtle vs. Tortoise Examples

Turtle Examples

  • Sea Turtle
  • Big Nose Turtle
  • Golden Coin Turtle

Tortoise Examples

  • Galapagos Giant Tortoise
  • African Spurred Tortoise
  • Indian Star Tortoise
  • Greek Tortoise

Turtle vs. Tortoise Pros and Cons

Turtle Pros and Cons

Turtle Pros and Cons

Pros of Turtle

  • Turtles are very quiet animals, so they can be preferred pets as compared to dogs and cats if you want peace at home.
  • Another benefit of keeping a turtle is that they are not demanding; all you need to do is to feed it and make it feel well.

Cons of Turtle

  • Getting a turtle is not something you can do just for fun, but it is a long-term commitment that sometimes people get fed up with.
  • Turtles are some of the pets which you cannot take with you on your vacations.

Tortoise Pros and Cons

Tortoise Pros and Cons

Pros of Tortoise

  • Tortoises can reduce food waste because they are best for feeding leftover fruits and vegetables.
  • Tortoise is not a fast pet which has its own advantage because you won’t be worried that it may lose because it takes a lot of time to hide and escape.

Cons of Tortoise

  • The tortoise may not look that dangerous, but they can be very fast when it comes to biting.
  • Tortoises are way more expensive than turtles, which means you have to spend a lot of money on them.

Comparison Chart

What's the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? While they may look similar, there are some key differences. Turtles are typically found in water, while tortoises live on land. Read more here.

Comparison Video

Whats The Similarities and Differences Between a Turtle and a Tortoise – Learning Video

Conclusion

Turtles and tortoises are both reptiles which are well known due to their shells. But if we talk about turtle vs. tortoise differences, both have different habitats, feeding habits and reproduction processes. The main turtle vs. Tortoise difference is that the turtle prefers to live within the water while the tortoise likes to live on the land most of the time. The bodies of both the turtle and tortoise are covered with shells, but the shell of the tortoise is harder to keep safe from land threats. Both of these reptiles can be good pets but have shy and repulsive natures.

Alex Stantor
Alex Stantor

Alex Stantor is a Sorbonne University (Paris, France) graduate in Philosophy and Data Analysis. Currently, he is an Author and Researcher at Difference 101, he writes articles/blog posts on topics such as "thinking differently" and "the importance of difference". Alex is a passionate advocate of diversity in the workplace and in companies, and diversity and inclusion in corporate communications. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

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