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Are Turtles Reptiles? Everything You Should Know

Are Turtles Reptiles? Everything You Should Know

A turtle is a cold-blooded (ectothermic) reptile. Although they live on land, turtles are aquatic animals and breathe air with lungs. Turtles also have scaly skin that covers their body to protect them from predators and abrasion while moving through the water or across rough surfaces such as rocks in streams. Most species of turtles lay eggs on dry land that makes their life cycle different from other reptiles who tend to reproduce inside their bodies until birth.

Turtles are a type of reptile, but they do not have scales. They can still be seen in the water and on land during sunny days.

Are turtles reptiles? Many people ask that question. The answer to this question can be found by looking at a turtle’s features and finding out whether it has any reptilian qualities. In this blog post, biology experts will explore what makes a creature a reptile and how you can tell if your turtle is one!

What Animals are Classified as Turtles?

Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, which means they need the sun to warm their bodies. They have a shell on their back and usually move very slowly.

Turtles can range in size from a few inches long to over 100 pounds! Some turtles live mainly at sea while others prefer living near rivers or ponds.

What Animals are Classified as Turtles

Many spend most of their time underwater walking along the bottom looking for food such as plants, insects, small fish, and other animals that may be hiding just under the surface of the water. In fact, some aquatic turtles will even swim around eating algae off rocks! Most turtles cannot hear because they don’t have external ear flaps like mammals do but those that live mostly on land use sight more than hearing – vision is probably what they rely on the most.

Turtle or Tortoise?

The word “turtle” generally refers to the land-dwelling, freshwater, and marine animals.

The word “tortoise” usually refers to the (land) animals that live in tropical or temperate regions such as Europe and Asia.

Turtles and tortoises can be easily distinguished by their appearance: a fully-grown tortoise has a large dome-shaped shell that completely covers its body; a turtle has no shell until it is an adult so turtles do not grow as big as tortoises.

Also, unlike most turtles, tortoises walk with their feet flat on the ground. Another difference between a turtle and a tortoise is where they live: turtles live in water, so you could say that all tortoises live on land.

Turtles have been around for about 200 million years while tortoises have been around for only about 30 million years.

Tortoises are also much larger than turtles. Turtles do not have shells when they are babies but newborn tortoises do have shells that harden into their protective dome shell as the young grow up. When we think of animals we usually consider having four legs to be natural; however many turtles and tortoises (such as box turtles) actually walk with two legs like humans!

Many people think that because there may be both sea and fresh-water turtles, they are basically the same. This is not true because sea turtles do not drink fresh water and can’t survive in freshwater lakes or streams because saltwater turtles have salt glands in their noses that filter out salt.

Freshwater turtles do not have these glands so if you place a sea turtle into freshwater it will drown from lack of salt.

Turtles can live anywhere from very hot deserts to very cold mountain tops! They often hibernate during the winter but some species such as box turtles never leave home and instead use leaves, bark, moss, rocks, etc. to cover the opening of their shell where their head and feet stick out while going through a state similar to hibernation.

What Exactly is a Turtle?


Turtles are reptiles that have hard shells. This shell is made of bone and can be very thick. The top portion of the turtle’s skeletal system is called the carapace, which protects its back. Turtles also have two sets of ribs to protect their organs from harm. These ribs are connected to the carapace.

The bottom part of a turtle’s skeletal system is called the plastron. This portion protects its belly from harm and also keeps it close to its shell for protection. The legs are connected to this section as well, which allows turtles to run fast on land in case they need to escape predators. In some cases, these ribs can be fused together so that they cannot move at all.

During baby turtle development, their ribs do not develop into hard bone structures or become attached completely with their carapace sides. So they can still put them away while running if necessary without injury risk. However, once a young adult has fully formed bones attached tightly enough between each other and the top and bottom sections of their shell (carapace & plastron), they are no longer able to retract them into their shell.


Some turtles have very long necks, while others have extremely short ones. This is because some of the muscles in these reptiles can stretch up to five times more than humans’ muscle length capabilities.

The extended neck structure helps it feed on leaves of trees that are difficult or impossible for other animals to reach with their mouths alone.

So not all species of turtle do this as a regular part of their diets but there are many who still use this method occasionally when food sources become low during winter months. Especially if they live in colder climates where finding warmer weather near the ground surface tends to be harder.


Turtles have arms. However, these are not the same as your arm in terms of structure and function. In fact, turtles may be more closely related to lizards than to actual reptiles! This is because their forelimbs only partially evolved from flippers into a sort of paddle that can’t bend at the elbow or wrist as ours do.

Their hands also lack claws but allow them to grasp things while swimming along looking for food such as snails and fish eggs. It’s important to note, however, that they still use these limbs for crawling over land when necessary.

What Characteristics of Turtles Make Them Reptiles?

Turtles, tortoises, and terrapins are all types of reptiles. Reptiles have scales or shells that protect their bodies from predators as well as the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This adaptation helps them retain water for long periods of time to survive in dry environments without drinking much water at all (although most do need access to both). Because they don’t require a lot of moisture, they also eat less than other animals with similar body sizes.

What Characteristics of Turtles Make Them Reptiles

Turtles share many traits with lizards which makes it difficult sometimes to determine exactly what classifies an animal as one specific type over another. However, despite having similar physical traits, turtles are not lizards.

Turtles have domed carapaces or bony shells that enclose their internal organs while lizard bodies are covered with scales rather than plates. They also live in different habitats which is another determining factor in classifying the two types of creatures separately. Turtles live on land and water while most lizards can be found only on land (though some do swim).

Turtles are reptiles, but not all reptiles are turtles. Turtles can be distinguished from other types of reptiles by their lack of limbs with digits. They also have a shell that covers most or all of their body. When people think about turtles, they often picture the domed-type shells typical to species like sea turtles and box turtles.

This means that terrapins (a group that includes diamondback terrapins), softshell, mud mask/snapping turtles, etc., may not be thought of as “standard” when it comes to turtle morphology. It should also be noted that some species do possess flippers instead of feet, such as the leatherback sea turtle. However, this does not mean that they are not considered reptiles!

The scientific definition of a reptile is an amniote – this means that it must lay its eggs on land or retain the egg membrane (amnion) within the body until hatching. Finally, turtle eggs hatch outside of the female’s body but lizard eggs develop within it until they break open to reveal fully formed baby lizards ready to take care of themselves immediately after birth!

Although some turtles do develop their eggs inside their bodies, most species display what experts call “complete” development: the embryo develops fully inside and outside of the mother turtle’s body until birth/hatching time. This makes them cold-blooded vertebrates with skin covered in scales or scutes and claws rather than feet. Reptiles also have dry scaly skin, which includes turtles as well as snakes, lizards, crocodilians, and others. Most modern scientists agree that all these features make turtles reptiles, but it is still up for debate as to whether or not they are saurian.

What Characteristics are Unique to Turtles?

Let’s start with the basics – are turtles mammals, birds, or reptiles? Well, all three actually! Officially they’re called amniotes which means that like birds and mammals (and humans) they lay eggs on land and have skin covered in scales or fur (depending upon their species).

All living reptiles, including turtles, evolved from ancient reptile-like ancestors around 300 million years ago. In fact, turtles are more closely related to birds and mammals than they are to most other reptiles! Turtles also have a number of adaptations that make them well suited for life both in water and on land.

What Characteristics are Unique to Turtles

Their shells protect vital organs, they have powerful front and back limbs for swimming and walking.

As reptiles, these scaly friends are cold-blooded which means their body temperature depends on the environment around them. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your turtle in hot or cold weather! Turtles also breathe through their butts, so you’ll often see turtles sticking out their little tails when they’re resting at the bottom of a pool for example.

Turtles can live anywhere from 40 years up to 100 years depending on species, diet, habitat, etc. Some wild sea turtles may even continue growing throughout their entire lives reaching sizes of over four feet across! Even though many people enjoy keeping pet turtles there is still a large trade in wild-caught turtles. If you’re considering getting a pet turtle make sure to do lots of research and learn as much as you can about their needs, habitats, and behavior before taking the leap into becoming a turtle owner!

Types of Turtles

They can be categorized into three general groups: aquatic, semi-aquatic, and terrestrial. The differences in their anatomy relate directly to the habitat that they live in.

Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles spend most of their lives in the water. Terrestrial turtles often spend time both on land and in the water, depending on what they eat.

Turtles with webbed feet are good swimmers while turtles with feet adapted for burrowing tend to spend more time on land.

Turtles vary based on how thick and hard their shells are compared to each other. For example, many sea turtles have shells that are very thick and hard because they live in the ocean where predators like sharks can eat them if their shell is not strong enough to protect them from bites or breakage of this area of their body.

Turtles also vary on how long they usually take to develop into adults, with some taking up to 20 years while others may require more than 50 for this process so it depends on what type of turtle you’re looking at as well as its natural environment whether it be terrestrial (land) or aquatic (ocean). Marine turtles tend to mature faster than land-based ones but there are always exceptions since every individual species’ growth rate varies according to different factors. It requires a lot of patience and dedication to wait for a turtle of any species in particular since you need to be around when they reach adulthood.

How Many Species Of Turtles Are There?

There are over 300 species of turtles alive today, from the tiny speckled padloper tortoise that weighs less than a paperclip to the giant leatherback that can tip the scales at well over 1 000 pounds. Turtles have been around for more than 200 million years and survived multiple mass extinctions – an amazing track record. But unfortunately, during their long history, they have also lost a lot of diversity: there were once as many as 1 000 species of turtles but only 300 or so remain today.

3 Species Of Sea Turtles Living In The Oceans

  • Alligator Turtle – this species of sea turtle can be found in all tropical waters as well as some subtropical waters. They are also the only sea turtles known to live part of their lives on land. Often they nest on sand bars and island beaches, but usually spend most of their time in lagoons or estuaries;
  • Flatback Turtle – this species of sea turtle inhabits the warm coastal waters around Eastern Australia, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and surrounding smaller islands. They feed on invertebrates especially jellyfish and crustaceans such as shrimp and mollusks;
  • Hawksbill Turtle – this species can be found throughout coral reefs in subtropical waters around the world including parts of Australia, Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia as well as some Pacific Islands such as Fiji and New Guinea. It is also one of only four marine turtles that use sponges as part of its diet;

Do Turtles Make Good Pets?

Turtle owners often say they feel as though their turtles are part of the family. They can live for decades and develop close relationships with humans, showing signs of intelligence, playfulness, and even personality. While people often think of reptiles as solitary and cold-blooded, turtles can actually be quite cuddly and affectionate.

Turtles do not always show affection in the way you expect, however. They don’t give you kisses like a dog or purr like a cat – they sometimes bite, mistaken an arm for food. Fortunately, it’s usually “just” a warning and not harmful but still gives you that “ouch!” moment reminding you that even though they’re cute, turtles are still wild animals!

With time and patience, your turtle will learn to trust you and enjoy its physical interaction with humans although each species is different so some may take longer than others may.

The bond you can form with your turtle is stronger than most humans could ever hope to achieve with their peers. However, it’s important to remember that these are living creatures with their interests and feelings.


Why are turtles called reptiles?

Turtles are called reptiles because they are cold-blooded. Reptiles are animals that need to keep their body temperature controlled by the environment, so they bask in the sunlight or stay in places where they can absorb heat from the surroundings. Turtles don’t have an internal heater, they regulate their body temperature by moving into warm areas on hot days and cooler areas on cold days. They also pull their head, legs, and tail into the shell if it’s too cold for them. So when turtles are sleeping or resting during colder parts of the day is when they are most vulnerable to predators who seek out inactive food sources.

Are turtles dinosaurs?

The short answer is “no”, turtles are not considered to be dinosaurs in a scientific sense. However, they do possess features that link them with their prehistoric predecessors, the dinosaurs.

Turtles are a type of reptile, and the definition of a reptile is an animal that either has scales or plates covering its skin, lays shelled eggs on land, and has lungs. Dinosaurs were reptiles as well. The main difference between mammals and reptiles is their reproduction methods. Reptiles lay shelled eggs outside of their bodies while mammals bear live young.

What is the difference between a reptile and an amphibian?

Reptiles have scales, lay eggs, and are cold-blooded.

Amphibians have smooth skin, give live birth, and are warm-blooded as well.

Some reptiles will eat a small amount of meat from time to time, but amphibians will not eat any meat at all. The only way an amphibian can catch prey is by using their tongues to snag it in much the same manner as a frog or salamander would.

Some animals that we commonly think of as reptiles (such as crocodilians) do develop inside eggs that they incubate until hatching. However, even though these species may be descended from reptilian ancestors – they aren’t classified as “reptiles” anymore because they evolved a method for reproduction that is more like that of an amphibian.

Reptiles are ectothermic (cold-blooded) whereas amphibians are endothermic (warm-blooded).

A reptile is an amniote, an animal that has a hard shell on the outside of its body. Reptiles live on land or in water. Amphibians, on the other hand, lay their eggs in water and have moist skin without scales or scutes.

Lizards, snakes, turtles/tortoises, alligators/crocodiles, tuataras are all reptiles.

Frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and caecilians (a type of legless amphibians) are just a few types of amphibians.

Where do turtles live?

Turtles spend the bulk of their lives in water. They are adapted to aquatic life with webbed feet or flippers and a streamlined form. Sea turtles are rarely seen outside of the ocean, except to lay eggs on land. Freshwater turtles reside in ponds and lakes, emerging onto logs or rocks for warmth.

What do turtles eat?

Turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and plants. Their diet primarily consists of insects, snails, crustaceans, fish (and other marine animals), worms, leeches, and carrion. Turtles also enjoy some vegetation like water hyacinths or seaweed on occasion. Sometimes turtles become scavengers when an animal dies in the area; this is especially common on islands where there aren’t many food sources available for large reptiles.

Turtle diets can include commercial pet foods like drained sardines, turtle pellets, and trout chow. They can also be fed cooked chicken, beef, and turkey. Moths, crickets, shrimp, krill, feeder fish, and worms are all viable live prey.

How do turtle eggs hatch?

Turtles have a hard shell. When turtles lay eggs, the mother turtle digs an underground nest and lays her eggs in it. Then she covers them with sand or dirt to protect them from predators like raccoons, pigs, foxes, and other animals that might eat their young. The egg then hatches after about two months depending on how hot or cold it is outside.

The baby turtle uses its claws to break out of the eggshells once they hatch too! They may look all cute and adorable but those little pets can be pretty vicious when protecting themselves against predators who want to make a snack out of them!

Useful Video: Are Turtles Reptiles or Amphibians?