Dining On Testudine Soup

Kiley from Woodbury, Vermont picked up on a gaff only a herpetologist could. Thanks for coming out of your shell and setting us straight.


In a recent episode one of your panelists was asked to state the difference between a turtle and a tortoise. The given (and accepted) answer was that turtles are water-dwelling and tortoises are land-dwelling. While kind of true, except when it isn’t, that differentiation is false. Normally I would let this slide, but I hold Says You! to a higher standard. Turtles are an order of reptile (Testudines) that include tortoises. Tortoises are a family within the turtle order. Yes, they are terrestrial, but there are other kinds of terrestrial turtle other than tortoises. Have you ever heard of a box turtle? Box turtles are completely terrestrial, but are more closely related to aquatic species such as red-eared sliders and painted turtles than they are to tortoises. To put it more simply, all tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises. Don’t even get me started on the differences between frogs and toads. I am a herpetologist and completed my master’s thesis on tortoises, so you can trust me on this one.

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