Difference between Male and Female Turtles

By: | Updated: Jul-23, 2021
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It can be difficult to determine the sex of a juvenile turtle since its reproductive organs are not exposed. If you own a young turtle, you may have to wait for several years for it to mature before you can discern if it is a Jane or a Joe. Upon maturity, you can take your pet turtle to an expert to ascertain its gender. However, there are simple ways to do it yourself. How is a male turtle different from a female turtle? The difference between the two will be discussed in this article.

Summary Table

Male Turtle Female Turtle
Small and light Big and heavy
Bright-colored Dark-colored
Has long nails on front feet Has short nails
Has a long, thick, and flat tail Has a short tail
Its cloaca is near the end of the tail Its cloaca is close to the body
Its butt is on the edge of the tail Its butt is not exposed
Has a concave plastron Has a convex plastron
Not capable of laying eggs Capable of laying eggs


Comparison of male and female turtles
A male turtle has long nails and tail while a female turtle has short nails and tail

Although it depends on the species of the turtle, a male turtle generally has a long, thick and flat tail to contain its reproductive organ. Its cloaca, which is the opening that works as an airway for the internal organs, is located near the end of its tail. Also, its butt is on the far side of its shell.

The nails on the front feet of a male turtle are long and wide at the base. These long nails are used to signal its intention to mate by touching the cheeks and shell of a female turtle. A male turtle also has a somewhat concave shell or plastron which is a perfect complement to the convex shape of a female turtle’s shell. Its long nails and concave shell are used in such a way that he stays in position during sexual contact.

A male turtle is generally smaller than a female turtle. Consequently, it also weighs less. Additionally, a male turtle is normally brightly colored to attract the opposite sex.

A female turtle, on the other hand, generally has short nails and tail. Its cloaca is located closer to its body. Its shell or plastron may be flat or a somewhat convex and its butt is not exposed. A female turtle is capable of laying eggs through mating with the opposite sex.

A female turtle can grow bigger than a male turtle and is, therefore, heavier. It also grows faster than the opposite sex.

Male vs Female Turtles

What, then, is the difference between male and female turtles?

In terms of appearance, a male turtle is smaller and lighter than a female turtle. To attract females, a male turtle also has bright colors. A female turtle’s plastron is slightly convex, while a male turtle’s plastron is somewhat concave.

Additionally, a female turtle’s cloaca is near its body while a male turtle’s cloaca is near the end of its tail. Since it is the male turtle that signals the readiness to mate, it has longer nails on its forelegs so it can tap on the female turtle’s face and shell and hold her during mating. A male turtle’s butt is on the edge of its shell, while a female turtle’s butt is not exposed. A male turtle has a thick, long, and flat tail to contain its sex organ, while a female has a short tail. Female turtles are capable of laying eggs and male turtles are not.

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