Difference between Turtle and Tortoise

Difference between turtle and tortoises is easy to misunderstand because superficially, both these classes of animals look quite similar.

Difference between Turtles and Tortoises

Though the major difference between turtle and tortoise is the habitat, not all turtles are aquatic. Some turtles even live most of their lives on dry land

Biologically, however, these organisms have various adaptations that clearly distinguish them from each other. One of the critical difference between a turtle and tortoise is the habitat. Most turtles are aquatic while tortoises are terrestrial reptiles.

Turtle vs Tortoise

Turtles and tortoises belong to different genus and species. However, both belong to the order Testudines, which includes all tetrapods with a true shell. The following are the key differences between turtles and tortoises.

Difference between Turtle and Tortoise

Turtle Tortoise
Most turtles are primarily water-dwelling reptiles Tortoises are land-dwelling reptiles
Turtles are usually omnivores Tortoises are primarily herbivores
Turtles generally have lighter shells on their backs Tortoises have much heavier and robust shells
Not all turtles are Tortoises All tortoises are turtles, as they belong to the order Testudines
Turtles usually have a shorter life span from 20-40 years Tortoises usually have a long life from 80-150 years


The difference between tortoise and turtle is apparent when their habitat is taken into consideration. From a strictly biological perspective, all tortoises are terrestrial. Most turtles are aquatic or at least semi-aquatic. However, turtles and tortoise share a common ancestor, hence, their body plans share common physical characteristics. Both these classes of organisms fall under the order Testudines. This order encompasses all animals with four limbs (tetrapods) that have a protective shell on their body.

Explore more difference between turtles and tortoises only at BYJU’S. Alternatively, register at BYJU’S to discover other fascinating topics from KT-Extinction, cryptobiosis, suspended animation and more.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is the difference between a turtle and a tortoise?

Turtle and tortoise essentially belong to the same family, however, turtles, in general, are adapted to an aquatic or at least semi-aquatic life while tortoises are predominantly terrestrial.


2. Are tortoises bigger than turtles?

Turtles are generally larger than tortoises. The largest turtle is the leatherback turtle. It can weight anywhere 300 to 700 kilos. The largest tortoise is the Aldabra giant tortoise, with adult males weighing an average of 250 kilos.


3. What do tortoises and turtles eat?

Tortoises are herbivorous and they subsist on grasses and leafy vegetables. Turtles, on the other hand, are omnivores. They have been observed to eat jellyfish, urchins, molluscs and seaweed.


4. What is the lifespan of a turtle?

Most turtles have an average lifespan of about 10-150 years. It also depends on the species. The leatherback has a lifespan of about 150 years.


5. What is the lifespan of a tortoise?

The lifespan of tortoises are usually longer than that of turtles. However, it strictly depends upon the species. An Aldabra giant tortoise was found to be over 225 years old.


6. Provide a few examples of tortoises.

Leopard tortoise, Aldabra giant tortoise, gopher tortoise, etc.


7. List a few turtle species.

Olive ridley turtle, green turtle, leatherback turtle.

Related Links:


Leave a Comment

Your Mobile number and Email id will not be published.



  1. Thank you very much for the answer