Turtles and Tortoise are different in many ways. Turtles and tortoises are reptiles, the only ones to have a shell. Their bodies are protected by a shell on top and underneath. Their backbone, breastbone and ribs have become part of the shell, so they cannot remove their shells. Like all other reptiles, turtles are cold blooded, which means their bodies are the same temperature as the surrounding air or water. They cannot remain active in cold weather. Most hibernate during winter, which means a kind of special sleep. Also like other reptiles, turtles shed their skin, usually in early spring.
The shields, or scutes, of the shell lift and peel off, and skin from the head, neck, legs and tail flake off in pieces, to reveal new skin underneath. Turtles pull their legs, tails and heads into the shell for protection. Some turtles pull their necks into their shells in a shaped curve, and others pull the neck sideways into their shell. These side-necked turtles are only found in the southern hemisphere. Female turtles lay eggs after mating with a male. A female digs a hole on land and lays many eggs, then covers the hole and leaves the eggs. When the eggs hatch, the tiny hatchlings dig to the surface and fend for themselves.
Most turtles eat both plants and meat. Some kinds eat mostly plants, but other kinds eat mostly small animals. Some turtles live in the sea and others live in fresh water. Freshwater turtles stay in the water most of the time, and sometimes come onto land. They have long legs and webbed feet with claws. They are found in rivers, streams and lakes. Freshwater turtles hibernate deep in the warm mud in the bottom of a stream, pond or lake. Sea turtles live in the warmer oceans. Their legs have developed into flippers. Some kinds live almost entirely on land, and they are called tortoises.
Tortoises have stumpy legs. Most have a high dome-shaped shell. There are about 40 different kinds of tortoise. Some live in hot desert areas, others live in mountains or forests. When they hibernate, tortoises bury themselves in soil or under rotting plants. Some tortoises are very large. The largest is the Galapagos Tortoise, which grows to about one and a half meters long. It is found on the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and can live for about 200 years. One of the smallest tortoises is the African Speckled Tortoise which grows to about 10 cm long.