Are Turtles Born With Shells?

The turtle eggs buried in the sand. Incubator turtles outdoor. Conservation of endangered species of large giant turtles in the Andaman Islands India. little baby turtles in the hand of the night

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Sharing is caring!

Those bumpy shells on turtles, were they always there? I mean, are turtles born with this shield? Or do these reptiles grow the shells later in their life? Let’s try to find out the answer in this article.

Turtles are born with shells. The carapace and plastron develop separately during the incubation period. As the embryo grows, both the shells also take their primary form. Finally, the carapace and plastron get attached at the edges. The underdeveloped baby shells grow stronger with age.

Get more facts and information on turtle shells below.

Key Takeaways

  • Turtles carry the same shell from birth to death.
  • In ancient times, turtles only had plastron, no carapace.
  • Turtle shells can heal naturally.
baby sea turtles

Turtles Are Born With Shells

People have this misconception that shells are separate parts of turtles. NO!

Turtles can not slip in and out of their shells. No such features are available. These reptiles are born with this shield and carry it till death.

The shell development starts in the egg. As the embryo begins to take shape, the shell will also structure and harden around that time.

Yes, it is true that the upper and lower shells grow separately. The carapace comes from the Carapacial Ridge, and the neural crest cell is behind the plastron formation. Only at the last stage of the development do the carapace and plastron fuse at the bridge by suture.

See also  Can Turtles & Tortoises Survive Without Their Shells?

So, when the tiny turtle cracks out of the egg, it already has the shell. Of course, the shells have not matured yet. As its body grows, the shell will also get bigger and harder.

Baby Red Eared Sliders

Can Turtles Live Without Their Shells?

A fossil dating back 228 million years indicates that turtles were not always like this. It means there was a time when these reptiles had no shells.

With time, turtles evolved and grew a shell on the back. Now, remember that evolution never gives you something you do not need.

Believe it or not. The shell is an integral part of a turtle’s skeleton. If you dive deep inside the shell, you will find an interconnected web of bones with rib cage and vertebrae. You will be left with a dead turtle if you remove the shell. So, no! Turtles can not live without shells.

The purposes of shells are simple. Such as,

  • Shells protect turtles from predators. The creatures can hide inside the box if they see any animal approaching them.
  • Turtles can feel stressed or panicked depending on their surroundings. Hiding inside the shell is a form of relaxing for these reptiles.
  • In harsh weather, extreme cold, or heat, turtles get in their shells to get comfortable.
  • The shell design is quite impressive. It helps the turtles move under the water swiftly.
Baby Red Eared Sliders care

What Happens to Shell After The Turtle Dies?

The main element of turtle shells is calcium bicarbonate. When you bury a dead turtle, these minerals will return to the soil.

But it takes centuries for shells and bones to disintegrate. There are fossil bones and shells that date back millions of years.

See also  How Do You Tell If A Turtle Shell Is A Fossil?

Many owners prefer keeping the shells of their dead turtles. No, this is not cruelty but a token of memory.

The idea is simple. Owners bury their dead turtles wrapped in a biopolymer. Within a few months, the flesh decomposes, leaving the shell. Around that time, the collectors dig up the shell, do the cleaning, and make a souvenir.

Before You Go

Do you know turtle shells have a superpower? Any damage or crack on the shell will heal naturally. Don’t believe me? Give the below article a read.

Can Turtle Shells Heal? [Truths Revealed]

Sharing is caring!

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


This site is owned and operated by Muntaseer Rahman. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.