All turtles and tortoises are part of the species testudine.
For this reason, it isn’t uncommon for people to refer to all tortoises, turtles, and terrapins as turtles.
There are actually some very distinct differences for those who are interested in understanding the more scientific facts about turtles vs tortoises.
Some people separate them by referring to land-dwellers as tortoises and water-dwellers as turtles.
This is generally true, although many turtles live most of the time in the water but spend varying amounts of time on land.
So, what else helps in dividing turtles from tortoises?
To start with, it is good to know they have in common.
All testudines have bodies that are shielded by a shell called a carapace.
The lower portion of the shell is called the plastron.
The head and limbs can be either folded under the shell or retracted into the shell depending on the subspecies.
Neither turtles nor tortoises can live without the carapace.Sea Turtle
Once you know what all testudines share, you can then notice some things that make them different.
Tortoises are members of the Chelonian family and they live entirely on land. They will drown if underwater for too long.
Unlike tortoises, some turtles live in water all of the time and some live part of the time in the water, but they are all considered aquatic.
Tortoises have dome-shaped carapaces, stubby legs and feet, and their toes are intended to walk on land.
Tortoise shells are heavy and help protect them from land predators.
Turtles have flatter carapaces, long-clawed toes and webbed toes for paddling or swimming. Some turtles have flippers for enhanced swimming.
Tortoises have lighter shells for streamlined water activity.
Most tortoises are plant-eaters. The can roam easily on the ground and graze. The females dig burrows and lay 2-12 eggs in most cases.
Turtles are often carnivores and can eat small mammals, birds, and varied sea life.
Turtles come In from the sea to lay eggs and many of them lay very large numbers of soft, leathery eggs.
Tortoises tend to live longer than turtles.