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Kinds of Turtles and Their Classification

Amruta Deshpande
Popular with children as well as adults, turtles make excellent pets. There is a very vast variety of turtles in the world. Here are some of the varieties.
Turtles belong to the phylum chordata and class reptilia, which means that they are members of the reptile family. They have been around for a very long time. It is believed that these creatures have been on the earth longer than snakes and lizards.
There are over 300 different kinds of turtles living on land as well as in water. Many of these species are extinct, and others have made it to the endangered list.

Different Types of Turtles

Turtles are cold-blooded animals belonging to the class of reptiles. They have a shell that covers their back and belly. They come in different sizes ranging from miniatures, which are just a few inches in size, to giants that measure several feet from head to tail.
Turtles are generally divided into two main categories, tortoises, which are land turtles, and marine turtles, which spend most of their time in the water.

Sea Turtles

These are truly marine creatures that spend most of their lives in water. Their size ranges from 2 feet to about 7 feet.
They have an oval or heart-shaped shell covering their back and belly. Their limbs are transformed into flippers for ease of swimming in the water, and do not support them when on land.
These animals mostly wander in the waters of the tropical oceans. Only the females come ashore when it's time for them to lay eggs. An interesting feature of sea turtles is that they cannot put their heads back into their shell unlike most other kinds of turtles. Unfortunately, these are one of the most endangered species of the turtle family.
  • Caretta caretta - Loggerhead
  • Eretmochelys imbricata - Atlantic Hawsbill
  • Chelonia mydas - Green Sea Turtle
  • Lepidochelys kempii - Atlantic Ridley
  • Lepidochelys olivacea - Pacific Ridley

Snapping Turtles

These turtles are generally found throughout North America, South America, and in the southeastern regions of Asia. This type has physical characteristics like long heads, a strong jaw (with the upper jaw being hooked), and fairly-long tails.
Snapping turtles find it difficult to retract their head and limbs fully into the shell. There are only two species included in this family and they are as follows.
  • Chelydra serpentina - Common Snapping Turtle
  • Macrochelys temminckii - Alligator Snapping Turtle

Softshell Turtles

These are characterized by a flattened body and leathery, soft shells. They can be found in freshwaters as well as salty waters. However, most of them dwell in freshwater bodies. Their carapace is leather-like and pliable, and lacks horny scutes or scales.
They can be omnivorous, but most of them are found feeding on insects, mollusks, amphibians, and small fish. Some of the species belonging to this family are as follows.
  • Apalone ferox - Florida Softshell Turtle
  • Apalone mutica - Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle
  • Apalone spinifera - Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

Pond Turtles

These are found all over the world. This is the largest group of turtles. This group contains herbivores as well as carnivores. Most of these species are popular as pets.
Some of the common species belonging to this family are as follows.
  • Actinemys marmorata - Northwestern Pond Turtle
  • Chrysemys picta - Southern Painted Turtle
  • Clemmys guttata - Spotted Turtle
  • Trachemys scripta - Red Eared Slider Turtle
  • Terrapene carolina - Florida Box Turtle

Mud Turtles

The unique characteristic of these turtles is their ability to emit unpleasant odor when disturbed. They are strictly carnivorous and feed on insects, small fish, amphibians, and even crustaceans.
Some species of these turtles are as follows.
  • Kinosternon arizonense - Arizona Mud Turtle
  • Kinosternon baurii - Striped Mud Turtle
  • Kinosternon sonoriense - Sonora Mud Turtle


This is the largest group of turtles that live on land. They have heavy scales on their carapace, and their feet are not webbed. They generally feed on grasses, flowers, and fruits.
Some species are as follows.
  • Gopherus agassizii - Desert Tortoise
  • Gopherus berlianderi - Texas Tortoise
  • Gopherus poliphemus - Gopher Tortoise
These were the different varieties and species of turtles. Most of the larger varieties have no real predators, but the smaller ones do.