Is a Turtle the Same as a Tortoise?
Yes. A turtle is the same as a tortoise. There is some confusion over the name of this familiar reptile. Often it is indiscriminately called “turtle,” “tortoise,” or “terrapin.” It is correct to call all three animals turtles.
But people sometimes make this distinction: Turtles that live on land are called tortoises, land-dwellers that eat low-growing shrubs, grasses, and even cactus. Tortoises do not have webbed feet; their feet are round and stumpy for walking on land.
Tortoises that live in hot, dry habitats use their strong forelimbs to dig burrows. Then, when it’s too hot in the sun, they slip underground. Those that live in the ocean are called sea turtles.
Turtles tend to have webbed feet for swimming. Sea turtles are especially adapted for an aquatic life, with long feet that form flippers and a streamlined body shape.
They rarely leave the ocean, except when the females come ashore to lay their eggs, although some species, such as the green sea turtle, do come out on reefs and beaches to bask.
The largest turtle is the leatherback, which is a sea turtle. Leatherbacks usually weigh about 1,000 pounds. Other turtles live in fresh water, like ponds and lakes. They swim, but they also climb out onto banks, logs, or rocks to bask in the sun.
In cold weather, they may burrow into the mud, where they go into torpor until spring brings warm weather again. Certain freshwater turtles, especially those turtles people eat, are referred to as terrapins.
They spend their time both on land and in water, but always live near water, along rivers, ponds, and lakes. Terrapins are often found in brackish, swampy areas. The word “terrapin” comes from an Algonquian word for turtle.