What Does A Turtle Look Like Without A Shell?

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

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How many times have we watched turtles slipping out of their shells in cartoons? Those animated turtles look comfortable and relieved without the armor on their back. So, what will happen if turtles also lose their shells in real life? How will they look?

Turtle shells are fused with their bones and rib cages. Any attempt to remove the shell will kill the creature. If you manage to crack open the shell anyway, you will be left with a blob of flesh and internal organs. The lung, heart, gut, liver, bladder, rectum, etc., will be all over the place.

Why can’t turtles slip out of the shell? Can they live without carrying this baggage? Let’s try to find out the answers.

Key Takeaway

  • Turtles can not come out of the shell.
  • Softshell turtles and leatherback sea turtles have rubbery shells.
  • Turtles shed their shells occasionally.

A Turtle Without Shell Looks Gruesome and Dead

I do not think you have the stomach to see a turtle without its shell. It will be a horrible scene indeed.

The carapace and plastron are joined together via bridges. So, it will be nothing but a futile attempt from you to separate the pet from its shell.

Okay, just for your sake, I am convinced that you have managed to open the shell anyhow. Now, what do you see?

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First, by the time you are done, the turtle is long gone from this world (yes, dead).

Second, there is no gold mine hidden underneath the hard shell. Instead, the internal organs and skins of the pet are now all over the place.

You can see the lungs, heart, liver, gut, and all the anatomical wonders (!) present in turtles.

I am sure a bloody turtle with its organs wide exposed is not a pleasant scene for anyone (even for the sadists). So, stop imagining and experimenting with such cruelty with these innocent creatures.

These Turtles Have Softshells

Ah! The heading might look misleading. But I can explain.

No turtle is born without a shell. However, some species have soft carapace. Softshell turtles and leatherback sea turtles are the prime examples.

Do not get me wrong. These species have shells. But they are not hard like their relatives. Instead, the shells of softshell turtles and leatherback sea turtles have a rubbery texture.

These turtles avail all the shell features. For instance, softshell turtles can retract their entire body inside the shell. Also, because of the rubbery and low-weight shell, the leatherback sea turtles can swim very fast. In fact, this species is the fastest among all turtles.

Yes, the soft shells can make these turtles vulnerable. A simple scratch can lead to severe rot or infectious disease. But as I said, the rubbery shell texture has made these species agile. Hence, they can escape predators quickly.

Turtles Can Not Slip out of Their Shells

People with little knowledge of turtle anatomy believe this reptile can come out of the shell. Hey! I am not here to bash you for your ignorance. Let me clarify why turtles can not slip out of their carapace and plastron.

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Are you familiar with insects who own exoskeletons? Animals or insects without backbones grow this hard covering as protection and lose the shell when necessary.

See, turtles have spines inside their body, and they grow shells primarily for protection.

Most turtle species have a hard carapace (the upper shell) and plastron (the lower shell). These carapace and plastron have keratin on the surface. It is the same element we have on our fingernails and hair.

Multiple keratin layers give the shells a shiny appearance and make them almost scratch-resistant.

If we go deeper, we will notice that the entire shell is a single entity. But it is made of 13 scutes (small plates) glued together naturally.

The bones, spine, and rib cage are connected to the bottoms of the scutes. It means that, in a sense, the shells are nothing but fused bones and rib cages with scutes. The carapace and plastron are bridged together at the edges.

Turtles also shed the outer scute layers occasionally. But they do not lose the shell like the exoskeleton animals.

In simple terms, the shell is naturally engineered and welded to be an integral part of turtles.

The armor protects and cushions all the organs of these reptiles. If you wish to eliminate the shell, you are killing the turtle intentionally.

Before You Go

Turtles and tortoises can not live without a shell. The boxy armor protects these reptiles and secures them in any environment. I have researched more facts on turtles and shells in the attached article.

Can Turtles and Tortoise Survive Without Their Shell?

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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.


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