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Is a Sea Turtle a Reptile or Amphibian?

Is a turtle considered a reptile? The answer, in a nutshell, is yes. What about a turtle, though, qualifies it as a reptile? Our Harrisburg vets respond to this question today.

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 have four legs and a cold-blooded metabolism. They also have scales covering their bodies. Amphibians, on the other hand, have a smooth, water-permeable scaleless coating. Turtles have a tough, impenetrable shell that protects them. All reptiles, including crocodiles, snakes, lizards, and the Tuatara, rely on their lungs to breathe.

What is it About a Turtle That Makes it a Reptile?

Refer to the following chart to find out what exactly makes a turtle a reptile and not an amphibian.



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 Animals are Classified as 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.

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

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.

Are Turtles a Good Idea for a Children's Pet?

Turtles make excellent pets for children, but you should consider whether they are the best fit for your family. They are entertaining to watch and require less upkeep than other pets such as dogs or cats. However, contrary to popular belief, turtles can be quite costly to keep because they require special care to stay alive and well. You'll need to purchase a terrarium (preferably one that can be divided into two halves, one with water and the other without), and one that is large enough for the turtle to move around freely. Extra good and turtle droppings will almost certainly need to be cleaned out of the terrarium on a daily basis.

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 turtle and need a vet appointment? Contact Colonial Park Animal Clinic. We provide veterinary services for exotic pets like turtles, other reptiles, and small mammals.

New Patients Welcome

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

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(717) 540-7140