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What's the difference between a turtle and tortoise?

tortoise and turtle difference

What is a turtle?

Physical characteristics of turtles

Turtles are shelled reptiles that have a unique body structure. They have a dorsoventrally flattened shell that protects their internal organs. The shell is made up of two parts: the carapace (the upper part) and the plastron (the lower part). Turtles also have a beak-like mouth and webbed feet that are adapted for swimming. Some common physical characteristics of turtles include a long lifespan, scaly skin, and claws on their feet. Here is a table comparing the physical characteristics of turtles and tortoises:




Shell shape



Habitat preference

Aquatic and terrestrial


Dietary preference



In terms of physical characteristics, turtles and tortoises have some similarities, but they also have distinct differences.

Habitat and behavior of turtles

Turtles are pretty chill creatures that can be found in various habitats such as lakes, rivers, and oceans. They love to bask in the sun on rocks or logs, and you might even spot them poking their heads out of the water for a breath of fresh air. These slow and steady reptiles are omnivores, munching on a diet of plants, insects, and small fish. They are known for their ability to retract their head and limbs into their protective shell when they feel threatened. So, if you ever come across a turtle, remember to give them their space and admire their coolness!

Types of turtles

There are several types of turtles that can be found in different parts of the world. Some popular types include:

  • Green sea turtles: These turtles are known for their large size and greenish color. They are commonly found in tropical and subtropical waters.

  • Box turtles: These turtles have a unique hinged shell that allows them to completely close themselves inside. They are mainly found in North America.

Here is a table that compares some of the key characteristics of these types of turtles:

Type of Turtle




Green sea turtle


Tropical and subtropical waters

Seagrass, algae

Box turtle

Small to medium

Forests and grasslands

Insects, fruits, and vegetation

As you can see, each type of turtle has its own distinct features and preferences.

What is a tortoise?

Physical characteristics of tortoises

Tortoises have some unique physical characteristics that distinguish them from turtles. First, tortoises have a domed shell that helps protect them from predators. In contrast, turtles have a flatter shell that allows them to swim more easily. Second, tortoises have sturdy, elephant-like legs that are adapted for walking on land, while turtles have webbed feet for swimming. Finally, tortoises have a short, stubby tail compared to the longer tail of turtles. Overall, these physical differences make tortoises well-suited for their terrestrial lifestyle.

Habitat and behavior of tortoises

Tortoises are land-dwelling creatures that prefer to live in dry and arid environments. They are known for their slow movement and can often be found basking in the sun. Tortoises have a herbivorous diet, primarily consisting of plants and vegetation. They are known to have a long lifespan, with some species living for over a hundred years. Tortoises are solitary animals and are not social creatures. They spend most of their time alone, exploring their surroundings and searching for food. Here is a table comparing the habitat and behavior of turtles and tortoises:




Aquatic or semi-aquatic



Active swimmers

Slow and steady

In summary, while turtles are adapted for life in water, tortoises are well-suited for life on land, with their unique characteristics and preferences.

Types of tortoises

There are several types of tortoises, each with its own unique characteristics. Here are some popular ones:

Tortoise Type



Galapagos Tortoise


Galapagos Islands

Sulcata Tortoise


Sahara Desert

These tortoises differ in size and habitat. The Galapagos Tortoise is known for its large size and can be found in the Galapagos Islands, while the Sulcata Tortoise is medium-sized and inhabits the Sahara Desert. Each type of tortoise has adapted to its specific environment and has its own interesting behaviors and characteristics.

Differences between turtles and tortoises

Shell shape and size

When it comes to the shell shape and size, turtles and tortoises have some noticeable differences. Turtles generally have a flatter and more streamlined shell, which allows them to swim more efficiently. On the other hand, tortoises have a higher and more dome-shaped shell, which provides them with better protection against predators. Additionally, the size of the shell also varies between the two. Turtles tend to have smaller shells, while tortoises have larger and more robust shells. It's like comparing a sleek sports car to a sturdy tank! Check out the table below for a quick comparison:



Shell Shape

Flatter and streamlined

Higher and dome-shaped

Shell Size


Larger and more robust

As you can see, the shell shape and size is one of the key factors that differentiate turtles from tortoises.

Habitat preferences

Turtles and tortoises have different habitat preferences. Turtles are mostly found in aquatic environments such as rivers, lakes, and oceans. They are excellent swimmers and spend a significant amount of time in water. On the other hand, tortoises prefer terrestrial habitats like deserts, grasslands, and forests. They are adapted to live in dry and arid conditions and are not good swimmers. While turtles can live both on land and in water, tortoises are primarily land-dwelling creatures. Here is a comparison of the habitat preferences of turtles and tortoises:







In summary, turtles and tortoises have distinct habitat preferences, with turtles favoring water environments and tortoises thriving in land habitats.

Dietary preferences

When it comes to food, turtles and tortoises have some distinct preferences. Turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They enjoy a varied diet that includes insects, fish, fruits, and vegetables. On the other hand, tortoises are herbivores and primarily eat plants. Their diet consists of grasses, leaves, flowers, and fruits. While turtles have a more flexible diet, tortoises are specialized herbivores. Here's a comparison of their dietary preferences:




Plants and animals


Preferred diet

Insects, fish, fruits, vegetables

Grasses, leaves, flowers, fruits

As you can see, turtles have a wider range of food options, while tortoises stick to a plant-based diet. This difference in dietary preferences is one of the factors that sets turtles and tortoises apart.

Turtles and tortoises are often confused due to their similar appearance, but they are actually quite different. Turtles are aquatic creatures that spend most of their lives in water, while tortoises are land-dwelling reptiles. Another key difference is their physical characteristics. Turtles have webbed feet and streamlined shells, which allow them to swim efficiently. On the other hand, tortoises have sturdy, dome-shaped shells and feet adapted for walking on land. These differences in habitat and anatomy make turtles and tortoises unique in their own ways. If you are interested in learning more about these fascinating creatures, visit Save Our Blue Ocean | Ocean Gift Malaysia. Our website offers a wide range of exquisite turtle, shark, and whale bracelets. By supporting our mission and purchasing a save ocean bracelet, you can contribute to making the world a better place. Join us in building awareness and making a difference today!


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