Difference Between Tortoise and Turtle

Tortoise vs Turtle

Tortoises and turtles are reptiles both classified under the Testudine order. They have hard shells on their backs in which they hide for protection whenever they are in a dangerous situation. This is to make up for their lack of mobility in facing predators. They also have scales and they both reproduce by laying eggs.


Tortoises are land-dwelling creatures with large domed shells mounted on their backs. They have rounded and clawed feet to make it easier for them to walk on land. They feed only on plants, thus making them herbivores. They bury themselves underground to cool off, and go to the surface again for warmth.


Turtles are water-dwelling creatures with long and webbed feet for easier movement in water. Their shells are flat to decrease fluid resistance which allows them to maneuver quickly in water. They feed on both fish and plants underwater, thus making them omnivores. Sometimes they go to the surface to warm themselves under the sun.

Difference between Tortoise and Turtle

Turtles have lightweight and flatter shells mounted on their backs to make it easier for them to swim underwater, while the land-dwelling tortoises have heavier and more dome-shaped shells. Tortoises have stubby legs and claws to dig on the ground, while turtles have long and webbed feet to act as flippers in swimming underwater. Tortoises have a significantly longer lifespan, usually up to around 150 years, while turtles can only live up to about 40 years. While turtles can eat either meat or vegetables, tortoise can only survive on plants found on land. Turtles are also more preferred over tortoises as household pets due to the former’s size and a more flexible food preference.

While turtles and tortoises may hold a lot of similarities in their appearance, one can easily tell them apart by knowing the habitat and some essential features which are adapted to their habitat.

In brief:

• Turtles are water-dwelling omnivores that have flatter shells and longer webbed feet.

• Tortoises are land-dwelling herbivores that have larger shells and stockier feet.

  • kkay_P

    I was trying to find out the difference between Tortoises and turtles. This site was no help at all because your information is wrong about turtles. There are land dwelling turtles. In fact I had a Box Turtle for a number of years and it did not have webbed feet (as claimed in your article).