Is A Turtle A Reptile? Why Are Turtles Reptiles? Pictures & Facts

Is A Turtle A Reptile?

Reptiles are turtles. The order Testudines, one of four groups of extant reptiles, includes turtles. Turtles are cold-blooded, egg-laying scaly-skinned vertebrates that breathe air with lungs, which have the typical features of reptiles.

This bog turtle, like all other turtles (including tortoises and terrains), is a reptile.

The answer to the question “Is a turtle a reptile?” is yes, yet we need to explore the Reptile Family Tree in order to fully comprehend why turtles are reptiles and differences between them and other reptiles.

Page Index

  • Is A Turtle A Reptile?
  • What Is A Reptile?
  • What Is A Turtle?
  • Reptile Characteristics
  • Turtle Characteristics
  • Types Of Turtles
  • The First Reptiles

What Is A Reptile?

The class Reptilia contains reptiles, which are animals.

What is meant by the term “class”? Zoologists group individual creatures into categories based on similarities in species (a process known as “classification”) in order to make sense of the animal kingdom. A group is a class, to put it another way.

Reptiles, both extant and extinct, including turtles, snakes, lizards, crocodiles, dinosaurs, and pterosaurs are all members of the reptile class.

A reptile, this alligator snapping turtle is All other reptiles, including alligators, snakes, lizards, and dinosaurs, share a common ancestor with it.

Mammalia (mammals), Amphibia (amphibians), Insecta (insects), and Arachnida (spiders, scorpions, etc.) are among the other animal groups.

All reptiles (including turtles) share a common ancestor, which lived around 312 million years ago.

To put it another way, if you dig deep enough into any reptile’s family tree – turtle, crocodile, or dinosaur – you’ll wind up with the same creature (which you’ll encounter later on).

What Is A Turtle?

A Testudines turtle is a reptile. Among the larger Reptilia class, Testudines is a collection of similar creatures. Animals like tortoises and terrapins belong to the order Testudines, and all of them are thus referred to as turtles.

The Galapagos tortoise, like all tortoises, belongs to the order Testudines, and is therefore a turtle.

  • The Tortoises family, Testudinidae, includes terrestrial (land-living) turtles.
  • Little freshwater turtles known as terrapins. Indian pond terrapins and red-eared sliders are two species of turtle that have been given the name “terrapin.”
  • Large marine turtles called sea turtles live in the ocean. Between their feeding and breeding grounds, some sea turtles travel thousands of miles. There are seven different types of sea turtles.

Crocodilia (crocodiles and related species), Squamata (snakes and lizards), and Rhynchocephalia (tuatara) are the four living reptile orders, according to Testudines.

What does it mean for something to be in order? A class is a collection of related animals, as we’ve previously discovered. Animals that are more closely related to one another than they are to other animals in the class are placed in an order, which is a sub-division of a class.

Families are smaller groupings that may be split out from an order. One or more related species make up animal families.

There are 14 families and 361 species in the order Testudines (turtles).

Geoemydidae, which includes 71 species and includes European pond turtles, is the biggest turtle family. Six of the seven species of sea turtles, including the hawksbill sea turtle, green sea turtle, and flatback sea turtle, belong to the Cheloniidae family.

A summary of the four orders of living reptilians is provided below:

The Four Reptile Orders

  • Order Testudines (turtles) – 14 families, 361 species
  • Order Crocodilia (crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials) – 3 families, 26 species
  • Order Squamata (snakes and lizards) – 73 families, 11,182 species
  • Order Rhynchocephalia (the tuatara) – 1 family, 1 species

(Catalogue of Life data for family/species)

Reptile Characteristics

Because it shares a common ancestor with all other reptiles and has inherited characteristics that are common to all reptiles (or at least some of them), a turtle is classified as a reptile.

Some scientists believe that turtles are closer to crocodilians, while others believe that reptiles are closer to snakes and lizards. Scientists aren’t sure how to group turtles in relation to other reptiles.

Even though two different reptiles (e.g., a turtle and a snake) appear to be completely unrelated, they will share certain characteristics.

Because of their characteristics, both turtle and snake, as well as any other reptile, are reptiles rather than mammals, amphibians, or any other kind of animal. Notwithstanding the fact that other creatures share some of these traits, just reptiles have them all. reptile attributes include the following:

  • All reptiles are vertebrates (i.e., they have backbones)
  • All reptiles breathe air with lungs.

Although turtles may spend their whole lives in water, they must come up to the surface to breathe on a regular basis.

  • Reptiles are amniotes.

The eggs of an amniote are surrounded by a unique membrane called the amnion, which protects them. Amniotes’ eggs do not have to be deposited in water, unlike those of fish and amphibians.

Mammalian ancestors split from reptile forebears hundreds of millions of years ago, but they are still amniotes.

Turtle eggs are laid out of the water by alligators. Even though they spend the majority of their lives at sea, even sea turtles travel to the beach to lay their eggs.

  • Reptiles have scales or scutes.

Snake and lizard scales overlap, whereas turtle scales do not overlap and are properly referred to as scutes.

Scutes are scales with a hard coating of keratin (the same keratin that our fingernails are formed from).

  • Reptiles are generally ectothermic (cold-blooded)

An animal’s lack of the physical mechanisms to maintain its body at a consistent temperature is known as cold-blooded.

As a result of its surroundings, the body temperature of a cold-blooded animal like a turtle changes.

A turtle must travel to a warmer location, such as by crawling onto a river bank to bask in the sun or swimming to a warmer zone of water, in order to raise its body temperature.

An endothermic (warm-blooded) animal’s body, on the other hand, maintains a specific temperature range.

(The disadvantage of being warm-blooded is that maintaining a constant body temperature requires a lot of effort.) Warm-blooded animals, as a consequence, must spend more time hunting for food.)

Warm-Blooded Reptiles?

Endothermic (warm-blooded) reptiles are a very small percentage of all reptiles that exist today (including the leatherback sea turtle Dermochelys coriacea and the Argentine black and white tegu Salvator merianae).

Turtle Characteristics


What distinguishes turtles from other reptiles is the characteristics mentioned above, which differentiate them from other species.

The shell, which is unique to turtles and not found in any other vertebrates, is the most distinguishing feature of turtles.

The carapace protects the rear and upper sections of a turtle, while the plastron covers its chest and underbelly. A turtle’s shell is made up of these two parts.

The turtle’s backbones and ribs are cemented to the shell, which is composed of bone. Hardened scutes (hard scales) are welded together to cover the shell’s surface.

Lack Of Temporal Fenestrae

Temporal fenestrae, which are holes located behind the eye sockets of other amniotes (reptiles, mammals, and birds), are not seen on turtle skulls.

Turtles were formerly thought to be descended from extremely basic reptiles with no temporal fenestrae, since their skulls likewise lacked them.

Turtles are now thought to be descended from reptiles with skulls that had openings, but turtles subsequently lost them as they evolved, according to zoologists.

Lifestyle & Diet

The plant / meat ratio of an omnivore’s diet varies depending on the species, ranging from 50:50 to 1:1. Tortoises are herbivorous, whereas aquatic turtles are carnivorous. The jaws of predators are typically strong, allowing them to capture their prey.

Teeth are not found in turtles. Instead, their teeth are used to slice and chew food, with hard keratin surfaces.

Types Of Turtles

The common snapping turtle is a “hidden-neck” turtle of the suborder Cryptodira.

There are 361 turtle species divided between 14 families.

The Pleurodira suborder includes side-necked turtles, whose necks fold sideways into the shell, whereas the Cryptodira suborder includes hidden-necked turtles, whose necks extend straight back into the shell.

Pleurodira (Side-Necked Turtles)

There are three families and 99 species in the suborder Pleurodira (side-necked turtles).

The yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, Podocnemis unifilis, is an example of a side-necked turtle. The Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America are home to this species. The yellow dots on its head help to identify it, which grows to about 18 in. / 45 cm in length.

Cryptodira (Hidden Necked Turtles)

There are 11 families and 262 species in the Cryptodira (hidden necked turtles) suborder.

The common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, is an example of a hidden-neck turtle. In the United States and Canada, this species may be found in freshwater environments. It has a strong bite and an aggressive nature, and it grows to be 20 inches long / 50 centimeters long.

The First Reptiles

All surviving reptiles (including turtles) have a common ancestor, as we discovered.

Vertebrate animals, such as fish and amphibians, were restricted to watery habitats until reptiles appeared. (Amphibians, for the most part able to leave the water once they reach maturity, must lay their eggs in water.)

Reptile eggs developed a protective membrane known as an amnion, which permitted them to be deposited from water, and their early progenitors evolved it. Amniotes are animals with eggs that have an amnion.

Little lizard-like creatures were the first amniotes.

Because amniotes could flourish in a wide variety of terrestrial (land) environments, they were no longer limited to aquatic settings.

Sauropsids and synapsids are the two most important amniote groups.

Reptiles (and birds) had sauropsids as their forebears, while mammals had synapsids.

Around the Carboniferous Period, in 312 million years ago, the first true reptiles emerged. Hylonomus, a 9.84 in/25 cm lizard-like creature that resided in what is now Canada, was one of the animals they included.

The progenitor of all reptiles, including all 360-odd species of turtle, is an animal that looks a lot like Hylonomus.

All reptiles are descended from this common ancestor, which makes them reptiles.

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