Turtles Tortoises and Terrapins
Certain freshwater or tide turtles are often called terrapins. The most common terrapin of the USA is the diamondback terrapin. Terrapins eat crabs snails and other water animals, as well as green plants. The female is the larger animal, with a lower shell that may measure more than seven inches long. Terrapins live along the gulf and Atlantic coasts, but do not live north of Massachusetts.
Tortoises are turtles that live in arid regions. Tortoises have stumpy hind legs like an elephant’s foot, much unlike the webbed feet and flippers that a sea turtle has. Tortoises live in dry parts of the southeastern United States and in the deserts of the southwestern and southern states. In the winter they burrow underground and sleep in the holes that they dug. These tortoises are large timid animals, and they can live hundreds of years.
Turtles are reptiles that are very easy to recognize by their shells. The shell is a turtles house, which it carries every where it goes. Few other backboned animals have this great source of protection.
Like other cold blooded animals, turtles cannot live in artic climates. They are most at home in the tropics and in warmer temperature zones. In regions with severe winters they hibernate or sleep in the ground or in the water. Some turtles such as the hawksbill turtle live entirely under water and others only on land. Others can live on land or in the water. Most species of turtle are fresh water turtles. There are 44 species in the United States, and at least one lives in every state. Florida has 22 species in their borders.
The names turtle, tortoise, and terrapin are all commonly used. Some writers use tortoise for the animals that live only on land. Others use turtles and tortoises for fresh water kinds. Terrapin is a loose term for certain American fresh water turtles, especially those that are eaten by man. It is correct to say that they are all turtles.