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For the Love of Animals

Tortoise vs Turtle

4 min read

Similarities and differences between a turtle and a tortoise

Are you one of those people who think there is no difference between a turtle and a tortoise? Don’t be ashamed mate, you are not alone. Have no worries, we are here to save the day once again with some amazing insights about turtles and tortoise. Fun fact, it is said that all tortoise are turtles but all turtles are not a tortoise. This saying came from the fact that this class of reptiles is overall known by the name of the turtle. There are some major differences between the two but similarities are also there, hence we have made a comparison between tortoise vs turtle.

Tortoise vs Turtle Similarities

The first glance when you see a turtle or tortoise, there would be some confusion as to which one is it as it physically looks kind of the same, but definitely not the same. For starters, both belong to the order named Testudines (or Chelonian) of the class reptiles.

They are diapsids that link them to their ancestors who had two holes in their skull posteriorly above and below the eye.

No matter the habitat turtles and tortoise both lay their eggs buried in sand, soil or vegetation.

They both are toothless creatures, now one might think how would they even chew or bite their food without teeth, but that’s the beauty of nature. Turtles and tortoises have rigid breaks and strong jaws which help them to eat their food.

These shy animals have a hard shell with bones attached to it, so no they cannot just come out of their shells as humans can out of their clothes.

They are ectothermic just like other reptiles, which means that their body temperature is regulated by the external temperatures.

Tortoise vs Turtle Differences

The commonly asked question is how to differentiate between a turtle and a tortoise. Here comes the real deal, the actual differences between a turtle and a tortoise are about to unfold before your very eyes.


The first and foremost difference is of the habitat. Turtles are water dwellers and tortoises are land dwellers. 

Physical Appearance:

Now let’s talk about the physical differences. Turtles have a flatter shell and are more streamlined making them lighter, they have flap-like limbs that are webbed feet with long claws that assist in swimming in the water. Tortoises have a heavier large dome-shaped shell, their feet are like that of the elephants; sturdy, short and bending at the knee, which enables them to move on land.


Moving onto the diet differences between a turtle and a tortoise, we can see that nature can’t serve them the same menu. Turtles are mostly omnivores just like us, they can eat grass or any insect. Fun fact time! Turtles can eat a jellyfish from its tentacles without being affected by its sting, so it doesn’t irritate or proves poisonous to them, unlike us humans who’ve endangered a lot of their species with our ignorance. Tortoises, on the other hand, are herbivores and love to munch and graze on the greenery of the land.

Life Span:

Turtles and tortoises do not have the same life span. Tortoises outlive turtles because their lifespan is about the same as humans 60-80 years. If you have a pet tortoise you can even grow old with it with proper care. But they can also live up to 150 years. While the turtles have a lifespan average of 20-30 years. 

Egg Hatching:

Even though the eggs are laid in a similar way, but when they hatch both the turtle and tortoise little ones have a different way to start their life. The female turtle lay her eggs usually in the sandy beach, the eggs hatch after the incubation period and as soon as they hatch they need to make a run for it to the water avoiding all predators surrounding them. The little tortoise has it much easier than their relatives, after hatching they do have to dig their way out but they immediately go to their mother’s burrow where she protects them.

Ignorance is bliss, but it’s just temporary. Many of the species of turtles are being endangered because of the nets and plastic we throw in the ocean, the butchery of these exotic animals just for our taste is making them almost extinct. We still have time to live in harmony.

Hopefully, we’ve prepared you well to be confident about your knowledge about tortoise vs turtle for the next time you find yourself in a situation to debate about the differences and similarities between the two. 

Also, Read a full-scale care guide for your tortoise

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