Do Turtles Have Tails? How They Use It? And Why?

  • By: Reptilia Planet
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Many people are unsure if turtles have tails because they do not see them that often in their average household pets. However, most reptiles do have tails so does this mean that turtles have tails too?

Yes, turtles do have tails! which are mainly used to help them swim and navigate the ocean or lake! The males have a longer thicker tail compared to the females which are slightly shorter. This is how you can also distinguish their gender!

All turtles will have a long shell on their back with the two parts of it called the carapace and plastron connected by four bony plates called the vertebrae.

These bony plates (Turtles Shell) are what attaches to the pelvis and form the backbone for these reptiles. This helps to protect the vital organs of the turtle including the head and tail.

For the turtles that do have tails, you should notice a long tail poking out of the shell on their back as well and then attached to the bottom end by muscles called vertebral which then can be used for protection or swimming.

Types Of Turtles That Have Tails

There are many types of turtles that have tails. One type is the Sea Turtle which has a long, flat tail that’s usually used for swimming. You find that turtles who spend most of their life in the water will have tails to help them swim and Navigate.

Another type of turtle that has tails is the Snapping Turtle. This one will have a very thick tail that’s used to help it protect itself.

Other Types Of Turtles That Have Tails:

  • Sea Turtles
  • Wood Turtles
  • Red Ear Sliders
  • Snapping Turtles
  • Eastern Pond Turtles
  • Yellow Belly Sliders

Why Do They Have Tails?

There are many reasons why some turtles have tails which makes perfect sense because some types prefer different habitats so naturally, they would need more adaptations than others.

To give you an idea of what we mean let’s go through the reasons why turtles have tails and how they can help.


Reproduction is one of the major reasons some turtles have tails. The reproductive organ is in the tail and for the males, they need to get within range of females for mating and that’s made easier by having a long tail they can use as leverage.


Turtles especially sea turtles will use their tail to help them swim. This is how they change direction and gain momentum in the water. If they lose their tail, then it becomes very hard to do these things and may even result in death because of this loss.


Turtles also use their tails for protection from predators such as alligators, birds of prey, or other turtles who want to steal their food. They can actually strike out at a predator with this long tail which can be dangerous.


Turtles also have a tail to help them with balance, not just for swimming but for on land as well. Their tail can help raise them off the ground slightly keeping them balanced so they can reach any hard to get foods they might be interested in.

What Do Turtles Tails Look Like?

The tail of a turtle is either flat or thick and they can come in different lengths depending on the type. They are usually covered by skin, but you should be able to clearly see their tail at the bottom of the shell.

Both male and female tails are slightly pink underneath yet the male will of more of this shade than the female. However, to see this you will have to pick the turtle up and flip them over.

How Long Do Turtles Tails Grow?

This one is really hard to answer because each type will be different lengths depending on how long they are in their environment.

For example, if your pet turtle lives mostly outside without any water he’ll most likely have a shorter tail than if he was living in an aquarium with plenty of space for him to swim around!

Sea turtles will have a very long tail that can be up to two feet in length. Yet other turtles can be as small as one inch depending on their age.

Can Turtles Regrow Their Tails?

Although a turtle’s tail is an important part of its body, it can’t regrow them once it’s gone. Instead, they will have to rely on their remaining limbs or be able to swim without one until the injury heals and grows back.

Injuries in turtles are pretty common because of how much time they spend outside where predators could easily hurt them when hunting for food at night.

But if the turtle was to lose their tail it can still survive without it. This might be a bit more difficult for sea turtles as they rely on it for swimming and navigation.

Males Tails Vs Females Tails

Males and females both have tails, and even though with some species it’s not very noticeable. The difference between the two can be seen if you know what to look for. This also means males can easily be identified which we will talk about below.


A male turtle will be much more visible because of the size difference between their tail and the female. The male will have a long, thin tail that you can’t miss that sticks out at the bottom of the shell this helps with copulation.


The female’s tails are shorter and attached to her body just like her plastron which is connected to her carapace with four bony plates called vertebrae. These aren’t as large or noticeable but if your turtle is an adult they should be able to see one either poking out from behind.


So there you have it! Turtles do have tails, but not all of them. Depending on the type and where they live will determine how long their tail is going to be!

remember if the tail is long then you most likely looking at a male turtle. Females have little tails that are hard to see, but you should be able to find one sticking out from the bottom

Turtles are fascinating creatures, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and tails! If you want to learn more about turtles don’t forget to check out the rest of our articles that are full of useful information.

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