Turtles are often debated about… Not only is it a name that’s used differently in US and UK English, but there’s also the question of whether or not these animals are reptiles or amphibians. So, are turtles reptiles or amphibians? Let’s find out!

This article is all about the question “are turtles reptiles or amphibians?” as well as helping you understand the reasons why.

In short: Turtles are reptiles, not amphibians. Even though reptiles have a lot in common with amphibians, there are some major differences that cause them to be seen as reptiles instead of amphibians.

Turtles are even more like amphibians than most other reptiles, but they’re still classed as reptiles. Why? – Find out now!

An image of a sea turtle

Why are turtles classed as reptiles?

So, turtles are reptiles. But, why is this so and why aren’t they classed as amphibians? Some sea turtles even spend much more of their life in the water than amphibians do… You may be ok with the answer “just because,” but we’re not! Let’s dive in a little deeper!

The Linnaean system

Just a quick interruption in the article to discuss something about the Linnaean system. This is a system used in biology to sort animals into classes based on characteristics. This is the system we use to establish whether turtles are reptiles or amphibians.

The phylogenetic system

This is another system that’s used in biology, but it’s focused on sorting animals based on the animals they descended from. In this case, us mammals and birds could also be classed as reptiles and it would make the distinction a whole lot more tricky!


One of the first important reasons that turtles aren’t classed as amphibians, is because of the eggs they lay.

Amphibians lay jelly-like eggs, whereas turtles lay eggs with a hard shell. Also, turtles lay their eggs on land and not in the water. There’s not as much danger of turtle eggs drying out like there is with amphibians’ eggs.

This is one of the major reasons why turtles are classed as reptiles and not as amphibians!

One other thing to do with eggs is that turtles lay their eggs on land. Even sea turtles will come onto land to lay their eggs, which is a typical reptile trait!


A turtle’s skin is another reason why it falls in the reptile category and isn’t an amphibian. Turtles don’t have a permeable skin (skin that lets water through) and also have scales.

These are two traits that further help a turtle’s case for staying in the reptile class and not being classed as an amphibian.


Another way you can tell that a turtle is a reptile and not an amphibian is that they do not metamorphosise as babies. Amphibians will transform, for example, a tadpole will become a from. However, turtles do not have a larvae stage and are therefore classed as reptiles and not amphibians.

There are a few other reasons too why turtles are reptiles and not amphibians, but these are the main ones. Check out our post on reptiles vs amphibians if you want to learn more about the differences between these two animal classes!


In this article, we’ve learned that turtles are reptiles and not amphibians. We’ve also learned why turtles are classed as reptiles and dove deeper into the different ways of classifying animals. We hope you’ve learned something new!

If there’s anything that we’ve missed in this article about “are turtles reptiles or amphibians” then please shoot us a message or leave a comment. We’re always happy to receive your feedback as it helps us to improve our resources!

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