Turtles and tortoises are closely related. They are both reptiles from the same family (Testudines or Chelonian). The main difference between the two is that turtle is the name given to water-dwellers and tortoise is the name given to land-dwellers. They are easily identified by the presence of a shell, from which their head and limbs protrude.

Turtles are found in Africa and America. Its shell is lighter and more streamlined than that of a tortoise. To enable swimming, it has webbed feet with long claws. Turtles are omnivores, eating both vegetation and meat. Their life span is shorter than that of the tortoise with an average of 20-40 years and a maximum of 86 years.

Tortoises are found mainly in Asia and Africa, but also in America. It has a rounder, bumpier, heavier shell than a turtle. Its bent legs are short and sturdy. Tortoises are usually herbivores, but some eat meat. Their life span is longer than that of the turtle with an average of 80-150 years and a maximum of 188 years.

Turtles and tortoises are both kept as pets, but can be difficult to care for because of their long life span. Turtles are more common as pets, though tortoises are easier to care for.

Turtles are interesting:

  • Sea turtles are very old organisms. They live on the Earth more than 220 million years. They managed to survive weather changes which killed the dinosaurs.
  • Sea turtles spend most of their life in the ocean. Females can be seen on the beaches only during nesting season.
  • During nesting season female will return back to the same beach where she was born. She will find the right beach even after 30 years of absence.
  • Turtle lays eggs in the holes in the sand. These “nests” can’t be recognized easily because turtle covers them with additional layer of sand. Depending on the species, each nest contains between 60-200 eggs
  • Temperature determines the gender of the baby turtles. Female will be born if the temperature of the egg is high and male if the temperature of the egg is low.
  • Sea turtles walk slowly on the ground because their flippers are adapted for swimming and not walking. They are excellent swimmers that can travel large distances. Leatherback turtle can travel 12.000 miles from Indonesia to Oregon.
  • Size of sea turtles is specific for each species. Kemp’s Ridley turtle weighs 80-100 pounds, while Leatherback turtle weighs more than 1000 pounds.
  • Sea turtles don’t have teeth, but their mouths are adapted to each type of food that they normally eat. Green Sea Turtle is vegetarian who eats sea grass, while other turtles eat crabs, clams, jellyfish, sea cucumbers…
  • Sea turtles will grab and eat plastic bag from the water because it looks like a jellyfish. This could kill sea turtle.
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