Tortoises and Turtles are both reptiles from the family of Testudines, the major difference being that the land dwelling ones are called Tortoises and water dwelling are called Turtles. The body of a tortoise and a turtle both is shielded by a shell, the upper part of which is called Carapace and the lower portion is called Plastron. The Carapace and the Plastron are attached at the end by a bridge which means that though the head and limbs may be withdrawn from the shell, the whole body can never be totally detached from it. These reptiles are generally reclusive and shy in nature.
The differences between turtle and tortoise are as follows:
Differences in Habitat
A Turtle lives in the water and a tortoise lives on land. Both turtle and tortoise lay eggs on the ground. The mother will dig a burrow and lay two to twelve eggs there but in the case of a Turtle, the hatchlings will stay inside the egg for 90 to 120 days while in a Tortoise, the hatchling will follow the mother to its own burrow. Turtle hatchlings incubate on their own and once the process is complete they dig their way to the surface but in the case of a Tortoise, the mother provides protection to the hatchling for about 80 days after which they survive on their own.
Differences in Physical Characteristics
A tortoise has a dome shaped shell with short and sturdy feet. It's legs are bent, instead of being straight and directy under the body. A turtle has a flat streamlined shell with webbed feet with long claws. In the case of a Turtle, the limbs are quite similar to that of a Tortoise but its feet are webbed and have long claws which provide a good grip upon floating logs and help clamber on to riverbanks. Some turtles might even have flippers as is, in the case of the famous Pig-nose Turtles.
Tortoise vs Turtle shell
The shells that cover the body of these reptiles are very important as it gives us a fair idea of how these reptiles live. As Turtles live in water, the shell of a turtle is flat and streamlined which aids in swimming and diving while that of a Tortoise, which lives on land, is rather large and dome shaped to provide protection from the predators. Also, the shell of a Tortoise is quite heavy as compared to that of a Turtle which is lighter to avoid sinking and help swim faster in the water.
Differences in Diet
Reproduction of Turtles vs Tortoises
Turtles lay eggs, like other reptiles, which are slightly soft and leathery.Turtle hatchlings stay in their nest on their own for 90-120 days. Female tortoises dig burrows in which they lay from two to twelve eggs. Hatchlings take approximately 90-120 days to incubate within the ping-pong-ball sized eggs.
Difference in Lifespan
Tortoises generally have lifespans comparable with those of human beings, and some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years. The oldest tortoise life recorded was of an animal that lived for 188 years.
Common lifespan of a turtle is estimated at between 20-40 years. Sea turtles requiring 40 to 50 years to mature have life spans reaching at least 60 to 70 years.
On occasion it has been reported that individuals of a few tortoise species have lived in captivity for 100 to 250 years. In many of these cases, the reported sex of the supposedly long-lived tortoise, or the species, or even both, have mysteriously changed during captivity, making it difficult to accept the reliability of such reports. It is likely that 100 years is not the maximum for a few species, especially sea turtles and giant tortoises, but, in order to surpass this age, an extremely nurturing, protective environment would be required.
Both are kept as pets; though turtles are more common. Tortoises are actually easier to care for, but more expensive. Unless you are an avid collector, willing and able to have a very long commitment neither is recommended as a pet.
Tortoises are found mostly in Asia and Africa, while turtles are found in Africa and America.
Video explaining the differences