More than often, people tend to use the terms turtle and tortoise interchangeably, however that is wrong. It is a very common misconception which we aim to do away with through this article. There is a major difference between turtles and tortoises that you will study in this article. You might often call reptiles with shells on their back a turtle, but not everyone is that. While the two are closely related, it is important to know their differences. Both of these reptiles belong to the same family of Testudines or Chelonian. However, the major difference can be said to be the fact that turtles are water-dwellers whereas tortoises are land-dwellers. You can easily identify them from the presence of their shells out of which their head and limbs protrude. So let’s dig in deeper.
Definition of Turtles
You will find various kinds of reptiles present on land and underwater and turtles are amongst them only. They are the kind of reptiles that have a streamlined and flat shell originating from their ribs. Moreover, it also serves as a shield. Turtles can be either sea-dwelling or fresh-water Testudines. Further, it is exciting to know that they go back to the Mid Jurassic-age, making them one of the most ancient and oldest reptiles. In today’s time, we have around 365 varieties of turtles. However, some of them are endangered species as well.
Definition of Tortoises
Tortoises belong to the reptile species as well, specifically to the Testudinidae family. You can distinguish them easily from other types of turtles as they have a land-dwelling nature. As you know turtles spend their lives underwater preferably. Much similar to other turtles, tortoises also have shells on their backs which shields them from any kind of danger or attack. However, you will see how tortoises have bigger and harder shells than turtles. In case of any danger, tortoises retract their head and neck back into their shells.
Difference Between Turtles and Tortoises
Important Difference between Turtles and Tortoises
|Basis of Comparison||Turtles||Tortoises|
|Meaning||These are reptiles belonging to the Chelonian family.||These reptiles also belong to the Chelonian family.|
|Habitat||They dwell well in water||They dwell well on land|
|Shells||They have flat, streamlined shells which are light-weight||They have large dome-shaped shells and are heavier in weight|
|Found in||Africa and America||Asia, Africa and America|
|Diet||They are omnivores so they prefer both vegetables and meat||Most of them are herbivores but some species choose live food|
|Birth||Hatchlings stay in the nest for 3-4 months on their own||Hatchlings move from the nest to their mother’s burrow shortly after birth|
|Limbs||They have webbed feet and long claws||They have short and sturdy feet with bent legs|
|Lifespan||20-40 years||80-150 years|
|Longest Living||The oldest turtle was 86 years||The longest living one is 326 years old|
More details about Turtles
We can classify turtles into two primary groups on the basis of the way they pull their necks back into their respective shells. Moreover, the mechanism that allows them to retract their necks into their shell varies phylogenetically.
Thus, you see that the class of turtles retracting their necks straight back are Cryptodira. On the other hand, the class of turtles that retract their neck anterior to shoulder girdles and laterally to either side are Pleurodira.
More details about Tortoises
Tortoises are different from other vertebrates. For instance, other vertebrates have their pelvic and pectoral girdles situated outside their ribcage but tortoises have them inside their ribcage.
Moreover, they are usually diurnal by nature and also possess tendencies of being crepuscular. However, that depends mostly on the temperature of their surroundings.
FAQs about Turtles and Tortoises
Question 1: What is the difference between turtles and tortoises in terms of their habitat?
Answer 1: Turtles are reptiles that dwell in water whereas tortoises dwell well on land.
Question 2: Which one is the bigger of the two, tortoises or turtles?
Answer 2: In general, turtles are bigger than tortoises. The largest turtle weighs around 300-700 kilos and is known as the leatherback turtle. On the other hand, the largest tortoise has an average weight of 250 kilos, known as the Aldabra giant tortoise.