PokéBase - Pokémon Q&A
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It's probably because Turtonator looks reptilian and a bit scary.

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Turtonator is a reptile. Reptiles can be dragon types. Also, he has scales and a long neck. Those are signs of dragon types. Also, it is a counterpart to drampa.

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The only thing you didn't duplicate is the characteristics of most Dragon-types.
Eh, clearing flags. Dishonest you might argue, but it's at least originally written.
Well, at least I made legitimate reasoning, as being of cannon reasons, not just "It looks like a dragon". It looks like a turtle, and Gyrados and Charizard look like a dragon, yet they aren't dragon types. Also, Vibrava, Flygon, Goomy family, and Reshiram don't look like a dragon, yet they're dragon type.
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I don't see any reason for Turtonator to be dragon type except it is Drampa's counterpart:

Turtonator can be seen as a counterpart to Drampa. Both are Dragon-type Pokémon with the same base stat total. They also share the same stat values, but with the exception of Speed, these values are assigned to different stats. While Turtonator is exclusive to Sun, Drampa is exclusive to Pokémon Moon.


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