Are Turtles Reptiles Or Amphibians?
What's an amphibian, anyway?
Turtles have been around since the age of dinosaurs, and they’ve evolved into extremely interesting creatures in the years following. There are currently over 350 species of turtle on Earth, with some living in salt water, some in fresh, and others strictly on land on all continents (except for Antarctica).
So that begs the question — are turtles reptiles,or are they amphibians?
Once you get a better understanding of the definition of a reptile, you’ll learn so much more about how turtles operate and what makes them so unique.
What does being a reptile mean?
Reptiles are creatures that spend time in both the water and on land. However, they only breathe air through their lungs.
Other distinct characteristics of reptiles include laying their eggs on land and generally having dry, scaly skin that prevents them from drying out.
Amphibians, on the other hand, are able to breathe in both water and air depending on which life stage they’re in.
Think about frogs, for example. When tadpoles hatch underwater, they’re able to breathe through their gills. But when they eventually grow into adult frogs, their gills are absorbed by their bodies and their lungs take over.
Both reptiles and amphibians are cold-blooded, however, and regulate their body heat by interacting with their environment. So, for example, snakes lay out in the sun to warm up and then slither into the shade to cool off.
Are turtles reptiles?
This all means that yes, turtles are reptiles.
All species of turtles are reptiles — even sea turtles, who spend most of their lives in the water. They still return to land to lay their eggs and must come up above the water to take a breath of air every now and again.
And when it comes to tortoises, they’re reptiles, too, even though they live exclusively on land and only need water to drink and bathe.
But turtles are unique from other reptiles like snakes, lizards, alligators and crocodiles in that they have shells. Their shells act as armor, protecting them from predators, and they can even store some warmth after a long sunbathing session, which helps them to regulate their body temperature in colder waters.
And no, turtles cannot crawl out of their shells like some cartoons and movies will have you believe. Turtle shells are actually fixed parts of their bodies, permanently attached to their spines and rib cages. That means they can feel pressure and pain when their shells are damaged.
Though reptiles and amphibians share a lot of similarities in terms of appearance and environment, there are crucial differences between the two. Turtles are reptiles who have evolved to live on land, in the sea, and in brackish and fresh waters, and can range in size, shape and demeanor.
But biologically, they’re all pretty much the same — cold-blooded reptiles through and through!