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Sea Turtle vs Tortoise: What's The Difference? | BeCause Tees

Sea Turtle vs Tortoise: What's The Difference?

There's often confusion over what makes sea turtles and tortoises different, but these fascinating creatures are distinct in various ways, from their physical appearances to their habitats. Want to discover the key differences between sea turtles and tortoises? Let's find out! 

Tortoise on sand

Sea Turtle vs Tortoise: Habitat

As their name suggests, sea turtles predominantly spend their time in the sea, with many choosing to live in shallow coastal waters. In fact, mature male sea turtles never leave the water, whereas the females head to shore to lay their eggs. 

In contrast, tortoises are terrestrial creatures, preferring dry land. They can be found in diverse environments, including deserts, grasslands, and tropical rainforests. 

Sea Turtle vs Tortoise: Physical Appearance

The habitat differences between sea turtles and tortoises helps to explain their differences in physical appearance.

One of the notable features of sea turtles is their streamlined bodies and paddle-like limbs, which make them excellent swimmers. Their shells are generally flatter and more streamlined than tortoise shells, which helps to reduce drag in the water so they can swim efficiently.

On the other hand, tortoises have heavier, more dome-shaped shells designed to protect them from predators on land. Their legs are adapted for walking and digging, rather than swimming.

Sea turtle swimming in the sea

Sea Turtle vs Tortoise: Diet

The diet of a sea turtle varies depending on species, but most sea turtles are either herbivores or omnivores. Food sea turtles eat includes: seagrasses, jellyfish, fish, crabs, and shrimp.

Tortoises are typically herbivores, consuming a diet rich in vegetation such as grasses, leaves, and fruits. 

Sea Turtle vs Tortoise: Lifespan

Tortoises tend to have much longer lifespans than sea turtles. The average life expectancy for tortoise is estimated to be around 50-100 years, although some species can live up to the age of 200, or even older.

On the other hand, sea turtles can live for up to 50 years or more, although the odds are against them when it comes to surviving until adulthood due to various threats, with estimates ranging from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000 making it to adulthood.


Sea Turtle vs Tortoise: Conservation Status

Sadly, both sea turtles and tortoises are struggling in the wild. Six of the seven species of sea turtles are listed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, with Kemp's ridley turtle being the most endangered sea turtle species in the world. Threats like habitat loss, pollution, and bycatch in fishing gear have proven costly for sea turtle populations.

Many tortoise species are also facing threats, such as habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. Tortoise species that are critically endangered include the radiated tortoise, ploughshare tortoise, and elongated tortoise.


In summary, although there's often confusion between the two, sea turtles and tortoises have various differences that set them apart. These creatures have evolved to thrive in different environments, resulting in different physical characteristics. Shop our sea turtles collection to help save the sea turtles!

BeCause Tees x SEE Turtles clothing


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