Are Turtles Reptiles Or Amphibians? Quick Answer with Pictures

The majority population of the turtle species spends most of their time underwater. It is one of the reasons why people mistakenly identified them as an amphibian. The fact that they can also survive in the water is just a few reasons for that. They have scales that cover their body, lungs, like some of the other reptiles such as crocodiles, snakes, lizards, and the tuatara.

Turtles can insert their head into their shell. The retraction purpose is for feeding and defending. Turtles have four webbed limbs armed with long claws for climbing up rivers. Sea turtles are not comfortable moving when they are inland, so they have limited movement only.

brown turtle

Are Turtles Reptiles Or Amphibians?

Turtles are reptiles and members of the order of Chelonia or Testudines. They have a bony or cartilaginous shell built from their ribs that functions as their shield. The word turtle refers to fresh-water and sea-dwelling Testudines. These include extant or living and extinct species.

Turtles are one of the oldest reptile groups discovered in the Middle Jurassic or 215 million years ago. If you would notice, in some classic stories about dinosaurs, turtles already exist at that time alongside these enormous dino creatures. These turtles are older than crocodiles, lizards, and snakes. Up to this day, there are 350 living species. Most of these turtle species are highly endangered.

Most of the reptiles are ectotherms or cold-blooded, and turtles are no exception. Their internal temperature may vary due to the ambient environment. Since turtles are amniotes, they lay the egg on land and keep the fertilized egg within the mother’s comfort.

Although several species live in or near water, they breathe air and do not lay eggs underwater. The shell that covers the turtle looks like their armor as it gives them protection from wild predators. Their upper shell is the carapace, while the lower one is the plastron. Both carapace and plastron are combined on the turtle’s sides by bony structures called bridges.

One of the things that make turtles easy to identify as reptile is their 60 bones. It includes portions of their backbone and ribs. So, the turtle cannot crawl out on its shell.

What Are Reptiles?

Reptiles are air-breathing vertebrates covered in armored skin made from bony plates, scales, or even a combination of both. Most of them have a continuous external covering of epidermal scales as it contains one unique type of keratin which is called beta keratin.

Their skin and scales also have alpha keratin shared with other vertebrates. Many distinguishing characteristics separate them from amphibians or mammals. Although they have many species, they are unique, and you can consider them as pets.

Not everyone has the guts to bring home a reptile.  So, it is only for the people who have a bizarre-taste. Alligators and Crocodiles, Lizards, Snakes, Turtles, and Tortoises are the living and existing reptiles as of this day. Each species has its attributes, temperament, care, food, and shelter. You can find these animals in the wild together with their other species.

Reptiles are part of the class of Reptilia. They have internal fertilization, amniotic development, and epidermal scales that cover all of their body. One of the primary groups of reptiles is the turtles in order of Testudines, tuatara in Rhynchocephalia. Lizards and snakes in Squamata. Alligators and crocodiles in Crocodylia or Crocodilian.

For additional and relevant information, birds share the same ancestor with crocodiles in subclass Archosauria. While they are theoretically part of the same reptile family, they still have many differences.

What Are Amphibians?

are turtles amphibians or reptiles?

Amphibians are small vertebrates that need water or a moist environment for survival. The species in amphibians include salamanders, frogs, toads, and newts. Typically, you can see these amphibians resting beside the water surface or underwater.

One of their trademarks as an amphibian is their special skin glands that produce proteins. It also brings oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide either into or out of the animal and protects from bacterial or fungal infections.

Salamander belongs to the order of Urodela. Frogs are Anura (no tail), toads are the Salientia. Newts are Caudata that also a member of the Salamandridae family, same with salamanders.

Brightly colored amphibians can be deceiving. Despite their happy-looking appearance, they are the most toxic ones. They can even warn potential predators through their coloration. You can see the curare on the skin of colorful dart frogs, and it is poisonous.

Another thing that separates these amphibians from other animals is their egg-larva-adult cycle. The larvae are aquatic, the frogs and toads can freely swim, and it is called tadpoles. The young grow limbs and lungs when they reach a definite size, and some lose their tails. 

They eventually grow up and jump or crawl out of the water and spend the rest of their lives on land. Metamorphosis is the term for this transformation.

Differences Between Reptiles And Amphibians

Turtle in the Philippines

Although amphibians and reptiles have some things in common, you can separate them uniquely. Some people would identify both as one of the fearless species in the Animal Kingdom.

They may be fierce-looking, but they are one of a kind as some animals in these classifications are underrated pets, and most of them are for laboratory experiments.

Here are the differences between amphibians and reptiles:

  1. Amphibians live in an aquatic environment, and you can see them also on land. Their larval stage spent in water and adulthood in the dry land. Reptiles live on land as terrestrial animals.  However, alligators, turtles, and crocodiles can live in water too. They spent their larval and adult stage on dryland.
  2. Amphibians breathe through gills and lungs. Reptiles can only breathe through their lungs.
  3. To defend themselves from threats, amphibians naturally produce toxins from their skin. Reptiles have hard scales covering the skin, and they also emit toxins but through their teeth and nails.
  4. Amphibians have a three-chambered heart. Reptiles have a three-chambered heart as well, but the ventricle is separated further by a septum.
  5. Amphibians function through their moist, sticky, smooth, and highly porous skin. Reptile’s way to protect themselves is through their dry, rough texture and scaly skin.
  6. When amphibians lay their eggs in water, there is a gel-like cover. When reptiles lay their eggs on land, it has a thick and hard protective covering.
  7. The splayed feet assist amphibians in swimming and jumping. The four limbs of reptiles help them to run and swim, except for snakes. They do not have legs and only crawl.

Common Things Between Reptiles And Amphibians

Despite their differences, amphibians and reptiles still have similarities. Experts have found out the many things that they have in common.

You may not see it, but as you explore their world, it would be easy for you to distinguish them from each other. So reading relevant articles would help to know the complete information about their similarities.

Here are the similarities between amphibians and reptiles.

  1. Amphibians are both ectotherms. Their body temperature will depend on their environment. Both amphibians and reptiles warm their bodies by absorbing heat from their habitat. The body temperature of most ectotherms varies in response to changes in the ambient temperature.
  2. Some amphibians and reptiles are omnivores and insectivores. They both can survive on both plant and animal matter and also with insects. Amphibians both have four legs except the legless lizards in the Pygopodidae family and caecilians. They also have tails, but frogs are an exception.
  3. Most reptiles and amphibians use toxins and poisons as their defense mechanism from threats in the wild. Since some of these animals are vicious predators in the wild, they also hunt their prey. The same goes for amphibians. They either use it to protect themselves or to catch another animal. People should be careful when they see one of these animals. They can intentionally attack you. They can also rely on camouflage, playing dead, or using mimicry as their defense mechanism too.
  4. Amphibians and Reptiles have good eyesight. In the wild, their eyes are one of their assets. Their sense of seeing is one of their way to detect predators coming even from a far distance. With that, they can prepare for a fight, or they can escape and hide quickly. Same when they see humans. Even though you don’t see them yet, they can already see you coming.
  5. Both reptiles and amphibians are some of the oldest species on earth. Both originated over 300 million years ago and can compare to the most historically extinct animal, the dinosaur.

Why Is A Turtle Considered A Reptile

rabbit and turtle

Some people mistakenly think that turtles are amphibians because they can survive underwater. Let me clarify that turtles are not amphibians but are reptiles. These creatures belong to the class of cold-blooded animals. A turtle is a reptile that can live either in the sea or in water.

For broader information, turtles belong to the order of Testudines that can also live on land. Instead of turtles, they are called tortoises or terrapins. Chelonia is the former name of the order Testudines. That is why turtles, tortoises, and terrapins are known as chelonians.

Just like other reptiles, turtles have their defense mechanism too. They have thickly covered shells from their back for protection. The dry scales covered their skin with a particular pattern. And, they can be one of the friendliest reptile pets you can have.

You can see the skin underneath the dry scales made of keratin. They have pulmonary respiration like other species of reptiles, and they cannot respire through the skin.

Fertilization season is internal for these turtles, and they lay eggs on lands. Turtles do not show any parental care after giving birth, unlike crocodiles. They have strong beaks and jaws on their head that help them chew and smash turtle foods.

Final Thoughts: Are Turtles Reptiles Or Amphibians?

Turtles are an essential part of our environment. They may appear weak due to their slow movement, but experts agree that these creatures are beneficial to Mother Nature, especially in the sea. These turtles keep seagrass beds and coral reefs in good shape. They help stabilize marine food chains and support the nutrient cycle from water to land by providing habitat for other marine life. In the wild, like other reptiles, turtles serve as both predators and prey. They can be a food source for many species in the wild.

This creature has a calm nature compared to other reptiles. But, do not attempt to grab them suddenly. They can panic and might attack you. In short, turtles should live from their natural habitat. They are born in the wild.

Therefore, they must die in the wild also. But since turtles are rising creatures considered as a pet. Their life will depend on how their owner will treat them.

Turtles are an endangered species. Some of these species will no longer exist due to threats in the wild. This prediction might happen in the following years because of habitat destruction, consumption by human beings, medicinal value, and pet trade.

Their extinction will depend on humans. These reptiles can also be found in laboratories as scientists use turtles for the experiment. Many would assume that turtles are underrated. But, for most people who value nature, turtles are all equally precious.

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