Red-eared slider turtles

Welcome to our section about turtles and turtle care. Below you find some basic information about turtles. You can also browse this section to find more specific information pertaining to how to care for and breed specific turtle species

Turtles are reptiles belonging to the order Testudines. Turtles are easily recognized on the bony or cartilaginous shell that shields a major part of the body. There are roughly 300 known species of living turtles in the world, and several are highly endangered. The earliest known turtles lived about 215 million years ago and this makes them the oldest group among the reptiles. Lizards and snakes did for instance develop much later.

Several members of the order Testudines are kept as pets. Some of the most commonly kept species are the Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), the Russian tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) and the Greek spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca).

Before getting a turtle, it is important to find out its exact requirements and how large it can become. Sea turtles are typically kept by huge public aquariums only due to their particular preferences. It is also important to refrain from purchasing wild-caught turtles belonging to endangered species.


Turtles are reptiles belonging to the order Testudines. The species are divided into three suborders: Cryptodira, Pleurodira and Paracryptodira. Only Cryptodira and Pleurodira contains species that are still alive today; the species of Paracryptodira are all extinct. All living turtles belong to the crown group Chelonia.

The suborder Cryptodira is much larger than Pleurodira and contains all the marine species, all the terrestrial species, and a lot of the species that lives in freshwater. The members of the suborder Pleurodira are sometimes referred to as side-necked turtles because of how they withdraw the head into the protective shell.

Turtle vs tortoise

The world turtle is widely used to describe all members of the order Testutdines, but it is also common to divide the species into tortoises, terrapins and (sea) turtles. Which type of usage that feels natural to a certain speaker will normally depend which type of English that person speaks; British English, American English or Australian English. 

In British English, the word turtle is typically reserved for the species that lives in the sea. Species that lives in fresh water or brackish water are called terrapins, while the species that live on land are called tortoises. American and Australian common names are normally left intact; and a British English speaker will for instance use the common name Pig-nosed Turtle for the Australian species Carettochelys insculpta even though this species live in freshwater (i.e. is a terrapin).

American English speakers tend to use the word turtle for all species, but they will occasionally use the word tortoise for species living on land. When there is a need to distinguish ocean living species from those that live in fresh or brackish waters or on land, the term sea turtle is used. The species Malaclemys terrapin that lives in brackish water is called Diamondback terrapin in American English.

Australian English does not distinguish sea living species from those that inhabit brackish or fresh water; both types are known as turtles. Australian English does however make a distinction between aquatic species and land living ones; the later ones are referred to as tortoises

It is not hard to understand that these differences in terminology can cause confusion when English speakers from various parts of the world communicate with each other. Among scientific researchers, conservationists, veterinarians and similar groups, the word chelonian is used to avoid misunderstandings. The term chelonianencompasses all the members of the order Testudines.


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