Discovering the Differences Between Turtles and Tortoises – Two Unique Reptile Species!

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Yotcmdr, Giant Tortoise, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons
Total internal reflection of Chelonia mydas.jpg
Brocken Inaglory, Total internal reflection of Chelonia mydas, CC BY-SA 4.0

What They Have in Common

The most obvious common characteristic is that they both have protective shells. Belonging to the order Testudines of the reptile family, turtles and tortoises are also cold-blooded, possess scaly skin and lay eggs.

Difference in Habitat

Turtles can be found in and around water; semi-aquatic turtles reside near freshwater ponds or lakes, while marine turtles mostly live in the ocean and can be seen on diving tours at Maldives luxury resorts including the likes of Heritance Aarah. Tortoises on the other hand, only live on land and don’t have the ability to swim; the Galapagos Islands is a great place to see the giant tortoise variety in its natural habitat.

Difference in Appearance 

Since they spend so much time in the water, turtles have adapted accordingly with webbed feet for swimming; sea turtles even have flippers! Their shells are also smaller and lighter. Since they are based on land, tortoises are larger in size and have stubby feet to manoeuvre along tough terrains, claws for burrowing and larger shells to protect them from predators.

Difference in Diet

Depending on the species, turtles eat both plants and animals (omnivores) ranging from small fish to algae. Tortoises are mainly plant eaters (herbivores) consuming a variety of shrubs, grasses, flowers and fruits.


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