Turtles and tortoises are reptiles, and are related. Both of them have the distinctive protective gear in which the head and the limbs are sheltered. The main difference between is that turtle lives in water but can come ashore such as for hatching, and tortoise lives on the land.

Turtle is a reptile, and it has both aquatic and terrestrial properties. Its shell is lighter in colour and streamlined unlike a tortoise. The limbs or feet of turtles are called flippers; the flippers have webbed feet with long claws. They are omnivores: herbivore and carnivores though predominantly the latter. Their life span is shorter than the tortoises.

Dhirendra Verma in WORD-WISE: The Origin of Words mentions about turtle: “Turtle, the name of the sea-tortoise, is a corruption of its old name tortor, denoting, the tortile or “crooked (limbed) animal”, in allusion to its tortuous or twisted feet. (L. tortus, twisted).”

Tortoises have a rounder and heavier shell than the turtles. Tortoises’ legs are shorter and sturdies. They are usually herbivores. They live on the land. Their lifespan is far higher than the turtles.

Turtles and tortoises are kept as pets. Tortoises can outlive their owners because of their long lifespan.

In India, in the eastern estate of Odisha by Bay of Bengal, thousands of olive ridley sea turtles gather near Gahirmatha beach during the nesting seasons. According to a report, in 1991, more than half a million sea turtles nested along the coast in Odisha (formerly known as Orissa). Gahirmatha beach, now part of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and created in 1997, is the world’s largest known rookery of olive ridley sea turtles.

Thousands of visitors, nature lovers and scientists visit the site to watch the mass congregation of Olive Ridley sea turtles. The sea turtles are carnivores, and are known for cannibalistic behaviour. They are exploited by human beings as a bait, for food and oil and leather, and to use it as a fertilizer.

Its meats is coveted and its eggs are esteemed. Collection of eggs is illegal. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the turtle is classified as vulnerable: to halt its commercial exploitation and in trading of its skin.


Turn turtle is an idiom: turn turtle means to overturn, upset, to capsize, to turn over. Usage of ‘turn turtle’: Many lorries turned turtle on the highway.

In the practice of feng shui, tortoise is a celestial animal.

Tortoise is a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and personifies water, moon, the Earth, time, immortality, fertility and for bearing the burden of the world, the whole world. 


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