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Is a Turtle a Reptile?

If you have a turtle then you may be wondering if a turtle is a reptile or something entirely different. Today, our Gallup vets let us know if a turtle is a reptile and the differences between reptiles and amphibians.

Is a Turtle a Reptile or Amphibian?

A turtle is a type of reptile that lives in either saltwater or freshwater. The term "turtle" refers to any reptile of the order Testudines, including those that dwell on land. Because this order was previously known as Chelonia, all members of this order are referred to as chelonians.

Turtles are reptiles because they are four-legged vertebrates with a cold-blooded metabolism and scales covering their body. Amphibians, on the other hand. have a smooth scaleless coating that is water-permeable. Turtles are protected by a tough, impenetrable shell. Their lungs help them breathe, as they do in all other reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes, lizards, and the Tuatara.

What are the differences between reptiles and amphibians?

The chart below outlines the differences between reptiles and amphibians and shows what exactly makes a turtle a reptile.



This class includes animals that dwell on land (snakes, lizards, tortoises); mostly in water (turtles); and on both land and water (crocodiles and alligators). There is no such thing as an immature (larval) aquatic stage in reptiles. Frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and caecilians are members of this class; they typically have an aquatic larval stage (e.g., tadpole) followed by a terrestrial adult stage.
Breathe Using the lungs Breathe using gills at the larval stage and with the lungs during adulthood
Have dry, scaly skin Have smooth skin. Adults also use the skin as a secondary breathing organ.
Lay their eggs on land. These eggs have shells Normally lay eggs in water. These eggs are surrounded by a gelatinous covering.

What are the Different Types of Turtles?

Today, there are three different types of 'turtles:' turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. The main difference between the three is where they live. Turtles spend most of their lives in the water, tortoises on land, and terrapins a split evenly between the two.

To be classified as a turtle, an animal must be cold-blooded, have no teeth, four legs, and have a bony shell. The shell is a turtle's most distinguishing feature. Their shells have a top and bottom and connect on both sides of the turtle's body to form a skeleton box.

Turtles live all over the world except for Antarctica. They can vary in size dramatically, from as small as four inches to as large as four feet.

Do Turtles Make Good Pets For Children?

The truth is that turtles make excellent pets for children, but you must consider if they are the greatest choice for your family. They are fun to watch and require less ongoing maintenance than other pets such as dogs or cats. But turtles, contrary to common perception, can be fairly expensive to keep since they require special care to stay alive and well. You'll need to buy a terrarium (likely one that you can have half with water and a half without), and a large one at that so that the turtle can freely move about. The terrarium will also likely need to be cleaned daily of extra good and turtle droppings.

As for food, you may need to purchase calcium-enriched turtle food to keep their shell strong. Speak to your vet about what kind of food is right for your turtle.

Do you have a pet turtle that is in need of veterinary care? Contact our Cedar Animal Medical Center vets. We are here to help with all of your pet care needs.

New Patients Welcome

Cedar Animal Medical Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gallup companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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