Explained: What is the difference between Turtle and Tortoise?

All tortoises are turtles-- they belong to the order Testudines or Chelonia (reptiles having bodies encased in a bony shell)-- but all turtles are not tortoises.
Created On: Feb 22, 2021 20:17 IST
Modified On: Feb 22, 2021 23:00 IST
Turtle vs Tortoise
Turtle vs Tortoise

Many of us use the term 'Turtle' for any reptile with a true shell on its back. However, this is not the case. You will be surprised to know that all Tortoises are Turtles-- they belong to the order Testudines or Chelonia (reptiles having bodies encased in a bony shell)-- but all Turtles are not Tortoises. In this article, we have underscored the differences between Turtles and Tortoises. 

Characteristics Turtles Tortoises
Shells They have thinner, more water-dynamic shells.  They have more rounded and domed shells. 
Habitat Turtles spend their life in water.  Tortoises spend most of their time on land. 
Legs They have flipper-like legs or webbed feet to make it easier to cruise through the water. They have 'club-like' forelegs and 'elephantine' hind legs to help them move around and carry the extra weight. 
Food They are omnivorous. They eat jellyfish, seaweed, and so forth.  They are generally herbivorous. They eat grass and leafy vegetables. 
Life Span They usually have a life span of 20-40 years. They usually have a life span of 80-150 years.
Weight They are generally larger than tortoises.  The largest turtle is the Leatherback turtle, weighing anywhere between 300 to 700 kilos.  They are generally smaller than the turtles. The largest tortoise is the Aldabra Giant tortoise with an average weight of 250 kilos. 
Scute Shedding Turtles shed their scutes to make room for new scutes to grow through underneath. Tortoises don't shed scutes from their shells and these grow without shedding, pushing up old growth to give the shell a layered look.
Examples Olive Ridley Turtle, Green Turtle, Leatherback Turtle, etc. Aldabra Giant Tortoise, Gopher Tortoise, Leopard Tortoise, etc. 

What is Biodiversity? Know the difference between In Situ and Ex Situ conservation

It is interesting to note that both Turtles and Tortoises are encased in a bony shell with scutes-- boned plates-- made up of Keratine. The pelvic girdle is housed inside their rib cage while vertebrae are fused to their shells. Additionally, both of them lay eggs on land in excavated nests of earth or sand and are cold-blooded reptiles. 

Explained: National Marine Turtle Action Plan

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