Are Turtles Born With Shells? The Mystery of Turtles Explained !

When someone asks you about turtles, you immediately picture them with a rigid shell and protruding head. These are the common characteristics of turtles that people would naturally think of.

But have you ever wondered about its existence if they are born with shells? Will they still survive without it? These are some of the questions that we will be answering to help you know more about turtles.

Are Turtles Born With Shells

Are turtles born with shells?

A turtle is a reptile which is known as an order Testudines, which has a body encased with a shell developed from its ribs. Although other invertebrates or mammals have evolved shells, the turtle’s shell is incomparable, which is their main feature.

You might be wondering if turtles have shells already when they are born, so to answer that, yes, turtles are born with shells. They have a top and bottom shell called carapace and plastron, respectively. These are bony structures that are joined together, which created the bony box-like shell of the turtles—this seeming box composed their bone and cartilage. As a shell is an integral part of the turtle’s body, it cannot leave it. The shell is like the turtle’s skin. The shell, however, for hatchlings are soft, and it hardens as they grow.

The shells of turtles are not only for their protection and survival but also serve as an identifying tool. There are land turtles like a tortoise and sea turtles like soft-shell, pig-nose, and leatherback sea turtles. The growth and maintenance of these shells differ, especially for land turtles. You would need to consider their housing, lighting, substrate, hygiene, and a lot more. As to substrate, this would highly depend on the type of the turtle or tortoise, like a suitable substrate for Russian tortoise is cypress mulch. So, yeah, if you are a turtle owner or planning to own one, it is a must that you have to know these things.

How does a turtle get its shell?

The turtle shell is a shield of turtles against predators. The shell consists of skeletal and dermal bone that completely covers the turtles’ vital organs, including its head, in some instances. Unlike other reptiles, the turtle’s outer shell is integrated into its skeleton. Their ribs and vertebrae grow into an outer layer like skin and enclose each other to form the shell.

That is what a turtle shell is, but how does a turtle get its shell? Studies have been made by scientists where they go back to its origin and evolution. Most of the oldest forms of turtle lacked not only the shell but also plastron and carapace. Notwithstanding this, the early turtles possessed precursors of these structures. The evolution of early turtle fossils was claimed to have shown that the bony structure of the shell was fused with its ribs. There were still questions as to how this was attached to the ribs. However, more recent discoveries have revealed a different picture of how the evolution of turtle shells came about.

How does a turtle get its shell

Numerous studies are being conducted as the evolution of turtle’s shell has intrigued and left researchers in wonder for years.

How Do Turtles Grow Their Shells?

The evolution of turtles points to the two bones, namely the carapace and plastron, to have produced the turtle’s shell. These bones arose from endochondral bone from the cartilage and dermal bones, which forms in the skin.

The turtles’ shells grow from the joining of carapaces and plastron. The top of the shell is the carapace which is made by the fusions of ribs and the dermal bone. In contrast, the lower shell covers the ventral surface. It can be clearly deduced that the turtle’s shell is part of its structure. These structures are joined together to form the rigid box shell. Through the years, it grows in proportion to the skeletal system of the turtles.

There are, however, differences as to the characteristics of land turtles like tortoises and sea turtles. Land turtles have thicker and rounder shells, mainly described as tectonic plates, while sea turtles have softer shells.

What happens if a turtle loses its shell?

The shell of the turtles is an integral part of their anatomy. It is like the turtle’s skin, ribs, and bones merged. As the shell serves as their protection from the outside dangers, this cannot be taken out of its structure. Imagine removing the very structure that protects a human body? What will happen? Removing the said structure may lead to significant damage, worse death.

As for turtles, they cannot possibly lose the shell since it is fused in their bodies unless it is forcefully removed from them. If this happens for some reason, the turtle might not be able to function well, leading to its ultimate death.

As a side note, any damage to a turtle’s shell could result in shell-rotting and respiratory infections. Proper caring should be observed and practiced to avoid these. One of the things you should look out for if you are a turtle or tortoise owner is your choice of a substrate as it has a significant role in their health. You should know what is fitting for your turtle or tortoise; say the best substrate for Russian tortoise is one that has a deep layer of appropriate bedding.

Related Question

Do turtles feel pain on their shell?

Yes, turtles feel pain on their shell. The turtle’s shell is more than a protective armor; although it is thick and tough, there are nerve endings that enervate it. These nerve endings are very much sensitive to pressure and touch. Thus, they can feel pain through it.

Can a turtle regrow its shell?

The turtle’s shell is covered with scoots. The scoots are made of keratin, like the protein that humans possess in their hairs and nails. These layers come off and grow by shedding and forming new scoots to protect turtles from any damage or injury. Thus, a turtle can regrow or heal its shell.

Do turtles like their shells scratched?

There is no absolute answer to whether the turtles like their shells to be scratched. Their shells are sensitive to pressure and touch, considering that it has nerve endings. Whether it would make them feel good or uncomfortable when scratched might depend on different kinds of turtles with other characteristics. If you own one, you can try observing how it responds when being scratched.

How long does it take for a turtle shell to heal?

The turtle’s shell heals at a very slow time, and it can really take a couple of months for its complete healing. While it takes a long time to heal, the good news is that it is capable of fusing itself back.

Final verdict

Turtles are wonderful creatures that everyone knows. It might be extremely common, and you might be able to say things about it, but there are just so many false notions that we have about them. They are not as insensitive tough as they look with their glorious armor-like shell. It can be susceptible and may be placed in danger when you have zero knowledge of its care and maintenance.

You might think that the shell is just a barrier of the turtles, but there are numerous things about it other than that. Studies are still being conducted to pinpoint its evolution.

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