What Happens If A Turtle Loses Its Shell?

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

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Is it even possible for a turtle to get out of the shell? What happens if the reptile loses its shield? Where will it hide?

A turtle can never lose its shell because it is permanently welded to the body. Shells are made of bones, rib cage, spine, and sternum. An attempt to separate the turtle from the shell will only kill the creature. However, turtles may lose the outer skin of the scutes due to shedding and infection.

Why do turtles have the shell? Can’t they live without this shield? Find out your answers below.

Key Takeaways

  • Turtles can not slip in and off the shells.
  • Shells assist turtles to move faster in water.
  • Turtles can lose their scutes if the shell rot gets severe.

So, That Shell Is Permanent

Are you afraid that your turtle will lose its shell? Hey! Don’t worry about that little guy. Its shell is going nowhere.

I understand where the confusion is coming from. Turtles can lose their shells in cartoons. So, what is stopping them in real life?

Well, their anatomy, of course!

See, the shell is an integral part of the turtle. I mean, this shield is not a piece of clothing that these reptiles choose to put on daily.

Let me give you an example.

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Can we pop out and pop in our hands or legs whenever we feel like it? No? It is the same with turtle shells. We can still survive with the popped-out limb. But turtles will die if they lose their shell.

I am not kidding.

Simply put, shells are nothing but extended skeletons. We can only see the hard outer layers. But if we peek inside, we will explore webs of bones. So, the rib and sternum make the plastrons. On the contrary, the bones and the spine form the carapace.

What happens if we try to crack open the shell? We can have a look at the inside organs of a DEAD turtle. Nothing exciting or magical.

As the shells are part of the skeleton, turtles can not lose them. These reptiles are stuck inside that box from the day they are born. In fact, they will take their last breath from inside that same shield (May it be depressing or comforting).

Turtles Need Their Shells

From the outside, it looks like turtles are struggling to carry the shells. But little do we know that, in reality, these reptiles need this box for survival. Here are the primary purposes of turtle shells,

  • Turtles can withdraw themselves totally or partially inside the shells whenever necessary. Once inside the box, the creatures are safe from predators.
  • In most cases, the shells camouflage so nicely that you can not spot the turtles. At other times, the hard shield will make the predators struggle to leave even a scratch.
  • You may not understand, but turtles also feel the anxiety and stress. The creatures run into their shells and cut off the world to avoid such vulnerability.
  • Shells are also a way of cooling off from the scorching sun. Besides, turtles may also go inside their shells in the cold winter.
  • Turtle shells have an exquisite hydrodynamic design. So, when the creatures swim, the water runs past the shell swiftly, making them move faster.

My Turtle Is Shedding Scutes! What If It Loses The Entire Shell?

Are you familiar with exoskeletons?

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These animals without backbones grow a hard outer skin on their bodies for protection. As they get bigger, they must shed the cover and slip on a new shell.

Turtles experience a shedding similar to this. But unlike the exoskeletons, these reptiles do not lose the entire shell. Instead, the flakes of scutes and skin come off.

If you spot your turtles shedding, find a way to comfort the pets. Shedding can cause irritation on the skin and shell. Bathing the turtles with lukewarm water can ease their pain.

And yes! Do not lose your mind, assuming the entire shell will fall off.

Shedding is considered a healthy process and a sign of growth.

However, sometimes, shedding can be unhealthy, too! Overfeeding and poor water quality are 2 prime reasons that lead to unscheduled shell or skin peeling.

One more thing. In severe shell rots, the shell plates might come off. Yes, there are cases where the scutes have fallen off completely, exposing the turtles’ bones, internal organs, and blood vessels.

Well, this is a disease and nothing close to normal. Turtles feel the most vulnerable in this state. You should seek medical help as early as possible.

Before You Go

Keepers often get confused between the symptoms of shell rot and unhealthy shedding. I have cleared things up in the article below.

Turtle Shell Rot vs Shedding: How Do You Differentiate Them?

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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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