Wondering what distinct features of a turtle makes them a reptile?
Turtles are fascinating animals that are well known for their hard shell that covers their back. As turtles survive both in and around water, many times, people consider turtles to be amphibians.
However, turtles come under the classification of reptiles!
Reptiles dominated the earth around 300 million years ago, and since then, they have been diversified into numerous species. Crocodiles, lizards, and Caimans are all reptiles. However, how do you know if a turtle is a reptile? Peruse on to get a clear understanding of this species.
Which Animals Are Classified As Turtles?
Turtles are reptiles that come under the order of Testudines. Evolved around 160 million years ago during the mid-Jurassic period, all turtles have certain standard features. Turtles have a cartilaginous or special bony kind of shell that develops from their ribs and protects them from predators. Some turtles have a relatively soft shell, and in others, the shell has a hard and bony structure.
Generally, turtles are restricted to sea-dwelling and freshwater Testudines. It includes both the living and extinct species. The earliest known members of this species date back to the mid-Jurassic period. Turtles happen to be the oldest reptile groups that existed even before the crocodiles and snakes. Among the known extinct species, some types are highly endangered species.
When it comes to the terminology, turtles fall under the same classification level as the cetaceans and the carnivores. All the turtle species come under any of the two suborders – pleurodirans or cryptodirans. The types differ based on how they cover their neck and head. Pleurodirans turn their head sideways before they retract them into their shell. As for the cryptodirans, they pull their heads straight back into their hard shell.
Turtles are commonly seen all over the world, except in Antarctica. The greatest number of turtle species happens to be in the south Asian and southeastern North America regions.
What Features Of Turtles Classify Them As Reptiles?
Turtles have some common features that are similar to the other reptile family. Some of these features are as follows:
Turtles Have Shells:
Turtles have a unique shell structure that is similar to the other reptile species. These hard shells are impenetrable by water. As for the rest of the skin, it’s covered with watertight scales just like snakes or crocodiles. Since they do not absorb water through their skin, they need to drink water to stay hydrated.
Turtles have an upper shell – known as the carapace and a lower shell that covers the belly – known as the plastron. Both these shells join together at the sides to form a bony framework known as bridges. The innermost layer of the shell consists of 60 bones, which include the ribs and the backbone. Hence, turtles can never crawl out from their shell.
Most of the terrestrial turtles have a dome-shaped shell that is hard to break by the predators. As for the aquatic turtles, they have flat, streamlined cases that help in diving and swimming. The musk and snapping turtles have cross-shaped plastrons that offer adequate leg movement as they walk around at the bottom of the streams and ponds.
Color of the shell varies –
Mostly, the shells display a black, brown, or olive green color. You may find yellow, red, green, or orange markings with lines, irregular blotches, or spots in some species. The aquatic turtles have a soft and light shell that keeps them from sinking in the water and allows them to swim quickly with great agility.
Turtle Are Cold-Blooded:
Turtles are ectothermic creatures that cannot regulate the temperature of their body. Commonly known as cold-blooded animals, their internal temperature varies based on the ambient environment they live in. This characteristic of turtles differentiates them from the rest of the species. However, due to their extremely high metabolic rate, sea turtles comparatively have a body temperature that is much higher than the surrounding water.
Turtles are further classified as amniotes, similar to mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Like the other amniotes, turtles do not lay eggs underwater and breathe in fresh air even though they stay in and around water. The smallest turtles have a shell length of 3 inches, whereas the largest ones have reported a shell length of 6.6 feet.
Turtles Live Both In And Around Water:
Most turtle species spend a lot of time inside the water. Belonging to the reptilian family, they depend on their lungs for breathing. They do not need any gills to breathe air while inside water.
Turtles have webbed feet and often come with long claws. Turtles use all their 4 feet for swimming, which gives them the thrust they require to move forward. Generally, larger turtles swim much less than the younger ones. The bigger species, like the alligator snapping turtles, hardly swim. They prefer walking around at the bottom of the lake or rivers.
Even though turtles spend most of their lives in the water, they come to the surface regularly to breathe air and refill their lungs. They are also well adapted to spend most of their lives, even on dry land.
Turtles lay eggs:
All reptiles have a similar method of reproducing. Just like the other reptiles, turtles also lay their hard-shelled eggs on the land. Even sea turtles use the lower dunes or beaches for nesting and laying eggs irrespective of where they live. When the eggs hatch, the young turtles are miniature versions of their parent species. Similar to frogs or any other amphibians, turtles do not undergo any metamorphosis.
Just like the other reptiles, turtles also do not show much paternal care to their hatchlings. Also, turtles take many years to attain the breeding age and do not breed annually.
Turtles are reptiles that are cold-blooded and use their lungs for breathing. Their young ones hatch on the land, which makes them different from an amphibian. These species thrive well on land, freshwater, and saltwater.
Usually, turtles depend on external sources to keep their body warm or cold. If you’re planning to keep them as pets at home, you need to place heat sources in their enclosures like heat lamps to keep them warm.