Wisdom From The Experts Pt 4 & 5
Two Turtle and Tort experts, two related pieces of wisdom to share about turtle and tortoise anatomy!
Lori Neuman-Lee, PhD (@CheloniaGirl ), prof at Utah State University, says – “I wish people knew that turtles can’t come out of their shells…because their shells are part of their skeleton! So cool!”
Alicia Wishart (@waffles_tort), Animal Educator at Reptilia Zoo, Artist, and Humom to our favorite Tortie-Trifecta Waffles, Mango, and Tortellini, wishes more people knew “They can feel through their shells. I get lots of people knocking on their shells like it’s a rock but they can feel that pressure and vibration. Nice pets and skritches are much more enjoyable”.
It’s a common misconception that turtles and tortoise wear their shell like a suit of armor that they can take on and off. It’s just not true. As you can see in the images above, their shell is really an extension of their rib cage and spine (which extends out as their tail… so lift them by their tails! )
The whole shell of the tortoise is made up of numerous small bones which are covered by separate plates of keratin called scutes. As a tortoise grows, extra layers of keratin are added underneath the existing layer, causing “growth rings”. Contrary to popular belief, a tortoise cannot be accurately aged by counting these rings. However they can tell us approximately how many spurts of growth the tortoise has had, thus we could also gauge what type of seasonal changes the tortoise has in its natural environment.
It’s interesting to note that Keratin is a key part of the makeup of the outer layer of human skin, also hair and nails. In reptiles, however, its shells, scales, and of course nails. Its waterproof and tough and functions as turtle and tortoises main defense against predators.
It was long thought that turtle and tortoise shells lacked any nerve endings and thus weren’t able to feel through their shell. Well, that theory is has been proven as false as the theory that the earth is flat. Turtles and torts are far more sensitive to touch than many realize, including their shells. They are very capable of feeling even a light touch of the shell.
This is important information too many don’t know. It’s particularly awful when you think about humans carving initials or drilling holes in their shells, a serious no way, but also unpleasant when you think about what the knocking Alicia mentioned.
Imagine something 10x your size coming up to you and giving you a strong knock on the head over and over. Not cool! Don’t do that. Stick to gentle pets and wanted head scratches when showing our shell friends some love. If you see a shell in the wild? They aren’t used to humans at all so enjoy from a far cause again, a giant hand from a creature you’ve never seen coming towards you? I might protest pee and I don’t live off the water reserves in my bladder like a tortoise.
So yeah, Wise words from more of our experts! Do a little reading about turtle and tortoise anatomy and you’ll be able to handle your shell with the care they require.
There’s a little more here and if you’re really interested I can suggest plenty of books to check out just let me know!