Difference between Turtle and Tortoise

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Sea Turtle

Tortoises and turtles are both classified as reptiles and belong from the order of Testundines. However they are not classified within the same family. The main difference between the two is that a tortoise lives on land, while a turtle lives in water most of the time.Both  reptiles lay eggs on the ground. The mother digs a hole where she lays her eggs and leaves them to incubate for 90 – 120 days. A tortoise provides protection to her hatchlings for 80 days but turtle hatchlings are on their own since birth. A turtle has a flat streamlined shell. Its limbs are webbed and clawed which gives it a good grip on floating rocks and helps the reptile in climbing and swimming. A tortoise in contrast has a dome shaped shell which is hard and provides protection against predators. Its limbs are bent, short and sturdy.

Lifespan and Reproduction

Tortoises can have a lifespan as long as human - they can live for around 60 -80 years in average but the longest verified lifespan of a tortoise was 188 years. The lifespan of a turtle is about 40-60 years. The differences in lifespan maybe due to varied environmental conditions and diet. Whilst tortoises are usually herbivores, a turtle can be both herbivorous and carnivorous. Reproduction and maternal care in particular is quite different among the two reptiles. The hatchlings of turtles are left alone to incubate and hatch without any maternal care. Tortoises dig burrows and lay their eggs in them and the hatchlings incubate for about 90 – 120 days.

Both are popularly kept as pets. However, small turtles are usually preferred. It is easier to care for a tortoise but they can be quite expensive as well. Tortoises are found mostly in Asia and Africa while turtles are found mainly in America and Africa.

Tortoise Turtle
Definition A chelonian family reptile that lives on land. A chelonian family reptile that dwells in water.
Distribuition Mostly Asia, Africa with a few species found in the Americas. Africa, America
Shell shape Dome-shaped Flat, streamlined
Weight of the shell Heavier shells Lightweight shell.
Limbs Short, sturdy and bent Webbed and clawed.
Diet Typically herbivores, however some species eat smaller animals. Omnivores
Birth Hatchlings move to mother burrows after birth. Hatchlings are not cared for by mothers.
Lifespan 80-150 years Depending on the species turtles can live up to 80-100 years.