Turtle Classification: Are Sea Turtles Reptiles?

are sea turtles reptiles

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In this post we are going to answer a question that often confuses people: Are sea turtles reptiles?

In short, yes they are. Sea turtles are perfectly adapted for life on the sea, but they do need to come onto land every once in a while to lay their eggs.

The females will come onto land a bury their eggs in the sand, then come back into the water to continue with their lives in hope that their eggs will hatch and their young will make it into adulthood.

However, the percentage rate for sea turtle hatchlings making it to adulthood is less than 0.1%, largely due to the predators that await them when they emerge from the sand.

Are Sea Turtles Actually Reptiles?

So, are sea turtles reptiles? Yes, they are. A reptile is a terrestrial vertebrate that is covered by a scaly hard shell.

In British English, a turtle is a type of reptile that either lives in the sea or in freshwater.

However, in the United States, the turtle is a much broader term that could mean any term belonging to the order of Testudines, including those that live on land.

This is what British English call tortoises, so you can see why there is often confusion between the two.

So what defines a reptile? Well, reptiles are cold-blooded and rely on heat from external sources. Often why turtles are found in tropical oceans and seas.

They are vertebrates, which means they have a backbone, and they also have dry skin, typically covered in scales or plates.

Reptiles breathe using their lungs, and most lay eggs on land, with the eggs having shells in order to breed, just like the sea turtle.

Turtles are also four-legged vertebrates and have a cold-blooded metabolism with scales that cover their whole body.

In addition, they have lungs that aid them in breathing, just like other reptiles such as snakes, alligators, or lizards.

So Is A Sea Turtle Not A Amphibian?

Unlike amphibians, reptiles breathe only through their lungs and have dry scaly skin.

Amphibians are different from reptiles in the fact that when they reach adulthood they are able to live comfortably both on water and land.

Also, they have soft, moist, usually scale-less skin and have to breed in the water. Amphibians consist of frogs, toads, newts, etc.

Amphibians lay jelly-covered eggs called spawn, usually in freshwater which results in young called tadpoles.

Sea turtles are not amphibians and are reptiles in the sense that they live and behave like reptiles and not amphibians.

Final Thoughts

So are sea turtles reptiles? Yes, they absolutely are.

Sea turtles are perfectly adapted for life on the sea, and they have all of the features of a reptile and behavior which make it clear that they are indeed reptiles.

One clear way to tell the difference is to look at the eggs that they lay. Sea turtles come onto land and lay eggs that have shells, whilst amphibians lay spawn that is covered in a jelly-like substance to ensure the young can survive.

Reptiles need to breathe air, even when they are young, unlike amphibians which transform into their terrestrial stage only in adulthood.

Hopefully, this post has been useful in helping you understand why sea turtles are reptiles. Thanks for taking the time to read this post.