Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapin

Some people may wonder what the difference between turtles, tortoises and terrapins actually is. Some people may even think that there is no difference. This article will explain the difference between these animals, and it will give us some background information on them as well.

All of these creatures are “four-legged reptiles that have hard outer shells, scaly skins, and horny beaks” (Leokum, 1986, p.56). Turtles, tortoises and terrapin are all known as turtles, but they live in different areas. A turtle lives in the sea, a tortoise is a land animal, and terrapin live in fresh water. So all of these creatures can be called turtles as long as we remember where they live.

Turtles are very interesting creatures. Turtles are like humans because they breathe through lungs. They are probably most known for their shells. These shells are “divided into two parts,” and one part covers their stomachs and one part covers their backs (Leokum, 1986, p.56). The turtle can stick his head hands, tail and legs out of the five holes in the shell. These shells are made up of bone, and it is covered in “horny plates or soft skin” (Leokum, 1986, p.56). Turtles have limbs and lungs like humans, but they have a hard protective shell that we do not have.

Turtles eat all sorts of things. Some turtles like vegetables like lettuce and carrots; some turtles eat fish and insects. Many turtles eat plants as well as fish and insects. Turtles do not have a very good sense of hearing, but they do have a good sense of sight, taste, and touch. (Leokum, 1986, p.56) Turtles can make sounds as well. The female turtles make a “hissing sound,” and male turtles make a grunting noise (Leokum, 1986, p.56). Turtles are very interesting creatures.

Turtles come in different sizes. The largest living turtles usually weigh about “1,000 pounds;” these turtles are called the “leatherback” turtle (Leokum, 1986, p.57). This turtle is huge, but there are also very small turtles as well. The smallest turtle is a “speckeled cape padloper turtle” and these turtles do not grow bigger than three inches (Hopson, 2000). It is amazing to think that there are turtles that are so huge, and turtles that can fit in the palm of your hand.

There are many different kinds of turtles, and they live in many different places. In fact turtles live everywhere except “the Arctic and Antarctica” (Hopson, 2000). There are even turtles that live in the desert. These turtles are known as “desert tortoise,” and they eat “grasses” and have “stumpy feet with toes that are not webbed” (Hopson, 2000). These turtles do not have webbed toes because they do not swim.

Turtles, tortoises, and terrapin are all part of he turtle family. Turtles live in many places, and have many different characteristics. Some turtles are huge, and some turtles are very tiny. All turtles are interesting and amazing creatures.


Hopson, M. (2000). Kids questions about turtles. Retrieved July 10, 2009, Web site: http://www.turtlepuddle.org/kidspage/questions.html

Leokum, A. (1986). The Big book of tell me why. New York, NY: Grosset and Dunlap.

Originally published at https://sarahganly.blogspot.com.




Sarah Ganly is an artist, entrepreneur, and lover of life. She is a lifelong learner dedicated to making people smile.

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Sarah Ganly

Sarah Ganly

Sarah Ganly is an artist, entrepreneur, and lover of life. She is a lifelong learner dedicated to making people smile.

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