Difference Between Turtle vs Tortoise

Difference Between Turtle vs Tortoise

They look almost identical, they move in an almost identical fashion, and they even walk nearly identically. So what’s the real difference between turtle and tortoise and how can we tell the two apart?

It turns out that there’s one area where they’re very different. Though they might have much of the same genetic blueprint, it’s the way in which they make use of their bodies throughout their lives that offers an explanation to their differing nature. Read on to find out more about the contrasting areas between these remarkable creatures.

Definition of Turtle

A turtle is: “A reptile belonging to the freshwater family, closely related to tortoises and sea turtles.”

The above description and definition alone immediately reveals that these reptiles aren’t one and the same. The key difference at play here and the fundamental reason for the many other differences at play between the two is that one (the turtle) lives an almost exclusively aquatic life while a tortoise doesn’t.

This difference in behaviour leads to subtle but significant changes in appearance, too. This starts with the shell, whereas for a turtle you’ll notice that the bumps and pattern are flat and more polished and streamlined in nature.

In contrast, a tortoise shell is rough and bumpy. This is due to the different environmental requirements that each respective reptile faces. Having a smoother shell allows a turtle to swim through water efficiently and at a high speed. A rougher and more armoured shell benefits the tortoise on land due to the added protection it offers.

The feet are where we can highlight yet more differences, with one (the turtle) having feet similar to that of a ducks that are webbed and allow it to navigate water successfully. A tortoise has little requirement for such features and has “normal” feet and toes instead. As it turns out, there is more of a difference between tortoise and turtle than you probably ever realised.

Definition of Tortoise

A tortoise is: “A land reptile belonging to warmer climates, surrounded by a leather-like shell.”

Because the tortoise is more of a land animal, it has similar but still significantly different features when compared to a turtle as we started to discover in the previous section.

Another difference comes in the form of their dietary intake, which while sharing some features, largely see both reptiles following a different eating regimen. Simply put, one (the tortoise) is a herbivore whereas the other (a turtle) is an omnivore.

Lifespan is another key element that presents a stark contrast. A tortoise is capable of living for anywhere up to 300 years or more with a turtle comparatively living for a much shorter period of anywhere up to 80 years.

When analysing the turtle vs tortoise debate in closer detail, it would appear that these reptiles have a very different set of characteristics, more than enough to make them distinctly different creatures, operating in very different ways.

Main Differences Between Turtle vs Tortoise

In this section, we’re going to present you with a turtle vs tortoise comparison chart so that you can easily cross reference the differences between the two any time you find yourself at a loss over this subject.

Where does it spend most of its time? In the water On land
ShellSmooth and streamlinedBumpy and rough
FeetWebbedIndependent digits
LifespanUp to 80 yearsUp to 300 years

When looking at the above table, despite any similarities in appearance that these two reptiles may share, it’s very clear to see that they are indeed completely separate. Any time you need a refresh, a quick look at the above information should clear up any confusion.

Difference Between Turtle and Tortoise: Conclusion

Now that you’ve made it to the end of the post, you should now have a full understanding of precisely how and why these animals are totally different from one another. An easy way to remember why is simply by stating that turtles like water and tortoises prefer land. Fundamentally, this is the key difference at play. Every key variation between them beyond that one is based on this underpinning fact.