Are Turtles Reptiles or Amphibians?

Turtles are reptiles, not amphibians.  People often mistake them for amphibians due to the misunderstanding about the term amphibian.  The word amphibian refers specifically to members of the class amphibia, but the word amphibious that comes from the same root means “operating or living on land and in water.”  It is true that many turtles are amphibious, but none are actually amphibians.

A few rules for being able to tell if something is an amphibian or a reptile are as follows:

  • Reptiles have scales, whether they are large, small, rough, smooth, etc.  This protective layer helps them conserve water and has also allowed them to spread across land in a way that amphibians are incapable of.
  • Amphibians have smooth, soft skin that is incredibly porous and must hold moisture to help them breathe.  Due to this, they must always stay close to a water source so their skin does not dry out.
  • Reptiles have claws or nails, amphibians do not.
  • Reptiles only breathe air through their lungs.
  • Amphibians are born breathing with gills until they develop lungs later in life when they are older.
  • Reptiles lay eggs that have a tough, leathery shell.
  • Amphibian’s eggs are soft and need to be laid in water or in damp places.


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