Are turtles reptiles? An amphibian is an animal that can exist in both aquatic and terrestrial environments, as indicated by the inclusion of the Greek word for “both,” “amphi,” in the species’ scientific name. But as with everything else, the reality is a bit more complex than the simplistic explanation we were given in grade school. There are, of course, many animals that do not belong to the amphibian family but fit this description.
After all, otters and penguins spend time both in the water and on land, but that doesn’t make them candidates. Since reptiles and amphibians share so many similarities, telling them apart can be challenging. How then do we tell one from the other? Which category do turtles best fit into, reptiles or amphibians? So, this is how the process goes.
You may also want to read about the top 6 tiny turtles that make great pets.
What is a reptile?
Reptiles, in contrast to amphibians, typically lay their eggs on land, where the young then develop. Some youngsters make a beeline for the sea and spend essentially their entire lives there, but they differ greatly from their amphibian kin in that they are unable to breathe while submerged. Instead, just like humans, they must constantly take in air to satisfy their oxygen needs.
They have scaly skin instead of the smooth and slimy exteriors typically associated with frogs because they spend most of their time on land and breathe air through their lungs. What about turtles? Crocodiles, snakes, and lizards are all reptiles, but aren’t they?
Are turtles reptiles or amphibians?
This begs the question: are turtles truly reptiles or do they more closely resemble amphibians? In any case, they do not go through a larval stage and (typically) lay their eggs on land (there are no turtle tadpoles out there). Instead, baby turtles hatch on dry land, emerge from their eggs looking like miniature versions of the species, and make their way to the nest.
Some of these creatures can be found in the open sea (we’ll get to them in a bit), but you’ll also find them in ponds, lakes, and rivers. There are actually more than 300 different species of turtles, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They are all classified as reptiles.
What is an amphibian?
While it’s true that the term “amphibian” refers to any animal that can survive in both aquatic and terrestrial environments, this is more of a reference to the different ways in which amphibians develop throughout their lives. Never forget that just because you like to swim doesn’t make you a frog. Toads, frogs, and salamanders, on the other hand, all lay soft-shelled eggs in water, where they will develop and spend their first few weeks of life.
For this reason, tadpoles devote their entire existence to the aquatic environment, breathing only while submerged. But when they’re ready, they emerge into the open air and begin to take in oxygen (even aquatic frogs come to the surface to gulp oxygen). Reptiles, like amphibians, can adapt to aquatic environments, though the conditions are slightly different.
Do turtles in the ocean belong to the reptile family?
Are turtles reptiles? Though they spend most of their lives underwater, sea turtles are reptiles just like their river-dwelling relatives. Except for when they come out to the beach to lay eggs and when they first hatch, they are normally solitary creatures. Even though they shared the planet with the dinosaurs during their long existence, sea turtles were the only ones to survive the mass extinction that occurred 65 million years ago due to their unusually slow metabolic rates. Yes, turtles are still around because they are reptiles, meaning they are cold-blooded and aquatic.
While reptilian characteristics have historically benefited turtles, today’s turtles face significant threats that cannot be overcome simply by being a reptile. Habitat loss, rising sea temperatures, and human hunting have put nearly all sea turtle species in danger of extinction. They need our help if they’re going to survive the next few hundred years.
Other than spreading the word, purchasing sustainable products, especially fish and other seafood, is the most effective action you can take. You can help ensure the survival of the sea turtle for what will hopefully be millions of years by avoiding any products that could harm them.