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A shell of a turtle is one of the first things that you are likely to notice immediately you come into contact with this creature and their obviously slow speed. It is, however, easy to come up with wrong conclusions and assumptions about the turtles, with the shells being more than just homes for these creatures. The tortoises, turtles, and snails are the only animals that have shells as bodies. This species is hardy, and they have lived in different parts of the world, including the United States, with different climates. The average lifespan of these interesting animals exceeds that of human beings, and they can weigh more than one thousand pounds.

The main answer that we seek to establish in this guide is whether this species can be able to survive without the shell. Also, we are going to discuss what happened to the turtle that does not have a shell and how to repair it in case the shell is damaged. As a turtle lover who seeks to have a clearer understanding of the shells, you should read this guide.


The shells on a turtle body are a distinct feature that sets them apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. This feature also makes them easy to spot and recognize every time you find them. The turtles are considered one of the most dangerous animals, but without the shells, they will be left vulnerable to attacks, and it will be hard for them to survive.

However, this has not been the case always. It is believed that every turtle has a shell, but they have evolved with time. In the early part of their evolution cycle, it is not every turtle had shells, but with ties, this unique feature has developed, and now it gives them protection from any form of attack. It is therefore important to understand the shell and its important components.

There are two types of shells which is the soft and hard shells.   These types look similar to each other, but there are some major differences that make each one different from the other, and we will discuss them.


The shells are made up of two components which are the plastron and carapace. The plastron is the posterior of the shell that covers the lower part of their bodies, while the carapace is the upper part of the shell that covers the back of the turtle. It is believed the carapace is made of ribs that have come together along with some parts of the backbone. The backbone gets fused with the rest of the backbone, but it can easily be identified from the rest of the bodies if looked at closely.

The turtles are unique from the rest of the animals since they are the only creatures where the ribs are joined together for one big bone. The rest of the animals have their rings separated. In the wild, there are as many as 300 species of turtles, and every one of them has a different shape. Some of the turtles process some round shells while others have more pronounced dome-like shapes, and others also have flatter shells. Despite the fact the shape of the shell is different from the outside, the internal structure of bones is the same in all species.


The most important components of the shell are the plastron and carapace. But there is also another component of the shell that is equally as important, and it is the bridge. This component connects the carapace to the plastron, and it acts as the important factor that keeps things together for the turtle. It is not clear how the bridge is formed, but most people believe that it is formed by the fusing of ribs, just like in the case of a carapace. The bridge serves two main purposes, which is to protect the turtle on their sides and the second to keep both the carapace and plastron together.


The turtles that have shard shells usually have a component that is known as scutes, and it is responsible for making the shell become hard. This component is made of keratin which is the same component that makes nails. The scutes create a layer that protects the carapace, and most of the turtles lose this component with time, and they grow a new one just like the snakes shed and grow new skin.

The shell being hard works perfectly for the benefit of the turtle since if the predator attacks the turtle shell and bites it on the outer part, it is the scutes that get damaged, and they can grow again. Having a hard shell helps protect the carapace, which grows only once in a lifetime.


The softs shells of turtles have coatings of a leather-like material that covers the entire part of the shell, unlike the hard shells that have a coating made up of scutes. The softshell is obviously not as hard as those of the hard-shelled turtles, but they offer enough protection needed by the creature. Underneath this leather-like material in these softshells, there is a hard layer of bones that act as the second line of defense.



Scientists have conducted their research and found out that over a million years the shell of the turtles have evolved in order to serve different purposes. The main reason why the turtles have a shell is for protection from predators. These shells are usually hard, and it is difficult for the predator to attack and reach the inside where the turtle hides. Large adult turtles are capable of withstanding a huge amount of pressure, and not even an alligator can be able to successfully eat a turtle.

This does not, however, mean that every predator cannot be able to attack them successfully. This is because some are able to penetrate the shell and attack the limps and head. Still, the shell helps them so much in most of the attacks. The evolution of the turtles began 220 million years ago with the discovery of the oldest fossil of the turtle showcasing the first hardened shell.

This ancient shell acted as a sign of what the present-day turtles dig and burry themselves using. To be particular, the gopher tortoise will create a tunnel underground and reach great depths, utilized by hundreds of other species.


 The shell of the turtle is a part of them. They cannot be physically removed from the rest of the body, and in any attempts o do so, the turtle will most likely die in the process. These shells are made mainly of skeletal and dermal bone, and over thousands of years, they have evolved to protect the turtles. The keratin makes the most external part of the shell, and it is the same material that comprises nails.

Each portion or part of the shell is known as a scute, and they interlock to form the shell and are often shed in thin layers in aquatic species such as turtles as they grow. The turtles have nerves on their shell, and therefore they are able to feel when you touch the shell. The external scutes do not have as many nerve endings and therefore are not as sensitive as those closer to the vertebral scute or the spine. These reptiles shed, they sometimes scratch themselves on rough surfaces in order to get help in the process of shedding, and this means that if you scratch a turtle shell, the turtle usually feels it.

Some of the turtles actually love this scratching and will seek to scratch the humans. Essentially the shell is the ribs of the Tuttle that have combined with bones and, with time, expanded to form a hardened shell. Since the shell is attached to the body of the turtle, they cannot live without it, and it cannot be removed since their inside would have nowhere to go without the shell.


Besides acting as protection from the predators, the title shells also help them become more agile. In an exciting way, many different species of turtle use their shells to help them burrow underground. The Gopher tortoises are specialized in digging far below the ground, but they are not the only species that do this. There are other species, such as Greek and Russian tortoises, that hibernate during the winter by burrowing into leaf litter or debris and tunneling underground. They only dig a few inches in the ground in order to insulate themselves from the harsh weather, but when the season gets warmer, they will slowly start to emerge.

Some of the species have also evolved their limps to help them in burrowing also, but the shell acts as the key feature that helps them keep protected underground and helps them shovel down. The shell is not helpful for the terrestrial species but also for the aquatic species such as turtles. Turtles that live in water have developed shells that are smooth and streamlined, and this helps them to cut through the water and move at incredible speeds.

Some of the other species have evolved the keels also, which are the spikes that are protruding along the vertebral scute, and they help in keeping them protected against the predators and slicing through the water. The fly river turtles and softshell turtles have evolved to lose the ossification and hardening of their shell, exposing their skin but making them extremely fast in the water. The agility in water is unmatched. The ability of these species to avoid the predators is high in water, and they have a speed that matches some fish species.


Almost every species of turtle possesses some aspect of camouflage, and they can effectively be able to avoid their predators by hiding and perfectly blending with the surrounding. The turtle markings are stunning, and each animal has evolved to suit the surrounding of the environment they live in. For Instance, the sulcate tortoises have a light brown ashy appearance that blends with the sand deserts in which they inhabit.

Also, all the box turtles boost varying forms of coloration that may seem that is normal to find but instead help them to remain fairly hidden in the wild. They have, with time, evolved to match the forest environment surrounding them, and the colors and patterns help them to break up their shell’s image and blend them in. The red, orange, and yellow colors blend into the floor of the forest and lines. Also, the varying stripes on the shell fuse image of the shell with its environment.

Most turtles have evolved spines and pikes around the perimeter of their shell to prevent the predators that are attempting to consume them, which, when coupled with camouflage, help keep them relatively safe. Young turtles have brighter and bolder colors compared to the older ones in order to blend better into their surroundings and avoid predators. It is important for the young ones to hide more since they face the likelihood of being eaten by many things compared to the adults.


The turtle shell is usually dark in color and serves a great deal in facilitating the absorption of heat from the sun. Also, these shells protect the turtles from excessive heat, and they help protect them from dehydrating from direct sunlight. Despite the fact that exposure to viruses, bacteria, and fungus is not causing the death of a turtle, without a shell, the internal organs of this species will get dehydrated in the sunlight before the animal can absorb enough heat for its body to function properly. This gives another reason why the turtle will not be able to survive without the shell.


 The turtle shells can be damaged in many different ways. Indents, divots, and pits in the shell can be as a result of animal teeth as they make an attempt to eat the turtle. If the turtle is placed in an improperly housed environment, it can easily develop shell rot which is an infection of the bacteria on the shell that eats the shell away slowly, and it can easily penetrate the bone structure. The turtle can also develop some metabolic bone disease which can end up causing deformities in the shell.

Shell rot eats away at the shell and causes permanent damage. The turtle shells can also be damaged by non-natural causes such as roads and being struck by vehicles. If you find your turtle with an injured shell, it is advisable to take them to a rehabilitator who is licensed or a wildlife center around the locality soonest possible.


Yes, it is true that to some extent the turtle shells can heal on their own. The keratin and bone can regrow but will be discolored and often lack color. The scars are very clear in turtles with damaged shells. In the case where the shell is severely damaged, the turtles may not be able to heal on their own and may need the help of a vet. If your pet turtle shell gets damaged, it is advisable to take them to the vet since it is only the wild turtles that should heal on their own since they have no one to take care of them.

This does not, however, mean that the wild turtles with damaged shells should not get any assistance. If you come across one that is damaged, it is important to help them by taking them to a vet. This will speed up the healing process compared to letting them heal on their own, which might take longer or never heal.


No, the turtles cannot get out of their shells since they are fused parts of their body, and they grow with them. The turtles are born with their shells, and they grow as the turtle grows. It is important to get a good source of calcium, and it will help in the growth of turtles. They will have small pieces of the top side of the shell known as carapace shedding their scutes which are keratinized parts of the shell that protect the actual body shell.

It is impossible to remove a turtle from the shell, and if you try to do so, they are going to die in the process since their organs are inside the shell and the only protruding parts are the tails, arms, legs, and the head. You should not confuse the shells t the animals such as hermit crabs, who are born without their shells, and they must look for a shell to call home. As they grow and get older, they also need to change into larger shells. As for the turtles, they do not go through this process but instead, grow with their shells and shed the old layers in the process.


You should never be worried about that. Turtles cannot accidentally lose or leave their shells on their own all they can do is tuck their head and legs inside. If you find a shell and think that you have actually found an empty shell, the likelihood is that your turtle is curled up inside. You should never try to pry them out of the shell since this will cause a lot of pain to the turtle. The only way a turtle can lose its shell is when it is forcibly removed by a human or a predator. If a turtle is separate from the shell, it is likely not going to live for minutes. The turtle will die within no time.

 You Can also find the shell shedding, and this should not be confused with the turtle losing its shell. This is the process of growth where the surface of the shell produces larger scutes so it can expand, and that is very normal. However, shedding of the shell can also mean that the species has a disease, and you should be kept to establish the difference. Any excessive peeling should always be examined by a vet.


Despite the hard exterior, the shells still break. This can be s a result of mishandling, falling, a car accident, being stepped on, or being attacked by a predator. A crack can have a great effect t the turtle and can be devastating, but this does not imply it is the end of life of the turtle. The two types of shell ailments are the missing fragments and depression fractures. A depression fracture occurs at the center of the carapace, also known as the top shell, and this can cause damage to the spine. The mission shell, on the other hand, could refer to a minor chip or larger fragment breakage that is a result of a crack. This can be fatal.


All the solutions discussed above to the shell fractures are only made possible by the ability of the shells to regrow slowly. Due to the fact that the shells are made of living material, they grow together with the turtle with time, and also, they have the ability to regrow and repair themselves with time. This explains why they are able to survive in the wild without the vets, and they often get attacked by predators. It, however, takes a little longer, which can even be years, for the shell to fully recover or regrow.

The broken shells or cracked ones are not only caused by injuries but also other factors such as lack of enough calcium, poor diet, untidy conditions or even lack of sunlight which can lead to appearing on the shell. These ulcers, also known as shell rot, cause the shell to crack, and they can also damage the kidneys and liver. It is important to treat the turtle whenever you notice some damage to the shell, and it will regrow and repair itself with time.


The shell is a critical part of the turtle’s body. It is a part of them, just like the skeleton is part of humans. The shell is very important for the protection and general survival of the turtle, and this explains why they cannot survive without them. The shell acts as a shield of the vital organs against the predators, which includes many nerves and bones. It is crucial for owners, especially those who keep this species, as pet. If your turtle’s shell gets fractured or injured, it is important to seek medication from a vet immediately since it can be fatal. The shell cannot be separated from the turtle’s body, and they cannot be able to live without them.

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