What is the difference between turtle, turtle and tortoise?

The turtle, tortoise and tortoise are reptiles of the order of the chelonian, which appeared in the Triassic period. That is, more than 200 million years ago. However, despite the similarities, like their hooves, these animals have many differences.

The word turtle, for example, should be used only for turtles that live almost entirely in water. Turtles move between fresh water and land. Tortoises are exclusively terrestrial.

Check out more differences and curiosities about these species!

Turtle Tortoise Jabuti
Characteristics Lighter hulls with hydrodynamic characteristics and paddle-shaped legs. The neck is retracted vertically into the hull in situations of threat. Flat hooves for better locomotion in the water and paws with fingers and nails for movement on land. Fold your neck laterally into the hull to protect yourself from predators. Slow, with tall, heavy hooves and feet with cylindrical fingers and nails. They usually resemble an elephant’s paws. The neck is retracted vertically, in the same way as the turtle’s.
Habitat They spend most of their lives in water (either sweet or salty). Except at the time of spawning. They move between fresh water and life on land. Exclusively terrestrial.
Food base Fish, molluscs, crustaceans and algae. Fish and crustaceans. Fruits and vegetables.

Turtle Characteristics

The turtle is a reptile with a strong, but light, shell. With the exception of the spawning moment, it spends most of its life in the water, either in the sea or in fresh water. Therefore, they have anatomical shapes in their bodies so that they have more agility in this habitat.

Some of these differences between their relatives (tortoises and turtles) are the legs, which most resemble fins (or paddles). This is so that they gain speed when moving around the water.

A sea turtle

They are reptiles that have no fingers or nails. Furthermore, when the turtle hides its head inside the shell, it does not bend its neck.

Even the shape of its carapace is distinct, being hydrodynamic. That is, it is light and more elongated so that the movement in the water is as effective as possible.

To feed, turtles have a varied palate. You can eat:

  • Fish
  • Mollusks
  • Crustaceans
  • Seaweed

Turtles can be found in almost every tropical region on the planet. And its biggest predators, except the human being, appear right at the moment of birth.

The sea turtle, for example, buries its eggs in the sand on the beach where it was born. When born, small turtles need to find the sea, which offers more security. It is during the route that many are targets of birds and other animals.

Eventually, some manage to find the water and get lost in the ocean, until the females need to go back to the same beach and lay their eggs. The estimate is that for every thousand births, only two turtles reach adulthood.

Turtle characteristics

Turtles are considered semi-aquatic turtles. This is because they move between life in water and on land. Part of its activities takes place in the aquatic environment, while others are carried out on the ground.

A turtle

To ensure effective locomotion on land, the tortoise has paws with fingers and nails. However, so that it is also agile in water, its legs have interdigital membranes. Thus, it is possible to swim more efficiently.

They are freshwater animals and their carapace also contains hydrodynamic characteristics. However, the hull is flatter than that of a tortoise and tortoise. To protect yourself from predators, retract your head into the hull by bending your neck laterally.

It is a carnivorous animal, preferring fish and crustaceans on the menu. However, some specimens can be omnivorous, meaning they eat meat and vegetables.

Features of tortoise

Quite different from its turtle and turtle turtles relatives, the tortoise spends its entire life on dry land. For this reason, it does not have any of the hydrodynamic characteristics that are found in other reptiles of the order.

A tortoise

Because it does not swim, its hoof is high and its feet look like an elephant’s, as they are cylindrical. This to support the weight of the hull, which is one of the heaviest among turtles if we take into account the proportion between its weight and size.

The reputation that the turtles move slowly may have originated from the tortoise. Because it is heavy, its movement is very slow. But nothing to stop you from finding items that form the basis of your diet:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Vegetables

Animal protein is hardly part of the tortoise menu. It is almost a vegetarian species, if it were not for some individuals of the breed who can take advantage of meat for survival.

Extinction risk

Many specimens of the order of the chelonian are endangered animals. Only in Brazil, all sea turtles that spawn on the Brazilian coast are at risk of extinction.

One of the main factors for this is the incidental fishing, in which fishermen end up capturing turtles in their fishing nets. These are trapped and cannot return to the surface to breathe. For this reason, many drown.

In addition to incidental fishing, changes in the environment made by man are another risk factor.

This is because of the change in the species’ natural habitat and the introduction of predators that would not exist in certain locations. For these reasons, the existence of turtles and other turtles may be at risk.

A baby sea turtle tries to find the sea


In Brazil, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) controls the turtles that can be pets. Only turtles and the water tiger turtle (a turtle) are allowed as pets .

Some states also have their own rules for raising this type of animal at home. In São Paulo, for example, having a tortoise as a pet is prohibited.

In addition, turtles, tortoises and tortoises are animals that require a very particular environment in order to fully develop.

Having a tortoise in the garden is far from ideal, as the shallow habitat can cause problems for these animals. Irregular hooves, lack of growth and little locomotion are some that can cost the animal’s life.


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