Turtle swims across a freshwater pond

Shell show-and-tell

Box turtle is held on a person's hand

They both have four legs and carry their house with them, but did you know turtles and tortoises are different? Where they live and what they eat can help you tell one from the other!

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

All in the family

Turtles and tortoises are reptiles, and even have another close relative, the terrapin. You can find these animals on all continents except Antarctica—and where they make their homes is a clue as to “who’s who”!

sea turtle poses for an underwater glamour shot

The water's fine

Turtles spend most their life in the water, and many have webbed feet for swimming. Sea turtles even have long feet that form flippers and a streamlined body shape. They rarely leave the ocean, except when the females come ashore to lay their eggs. Turtles eat small insects, snails, worms, fish, and plants that grow in the water.

tortoise makes way across dirt path

Land ho!

Tortoises live on land and eat low-growing shrubs, grasses, and even cactus. Their feet are round and stumpy for walking on land. Tortoises that live in hot, dry habitats use their strong forelimbs to dig burrows. When it gets too warm, they can go underground and cool off!

Besides their shell, turtles and tortoises have one other thing in common: they’re really cool animals! They can weigh from a few ounces up to 1,800 pounds, depending on their species; and some can live over 100 years. The next time you see one of these reptiles, be sure to say “Shello!”