Can A Turtle Live Without Its Shell? (Here’s What We Found)

Image of a turtle looking up

Turtles are usually cute, quiet, and unassuming creatures. Their shells are an integral part of their body. They are essential for their survival. So, can a turtle live without its shell?

A turtle cannot live without its shell. The shell of a turtle is a part of its body and not something that a turtle can simply slip it off. The shell of a turtle is made up of all the bones inside the body of the turtle. It is a part of the skeleton, and so it cannot be removed.

Now that it is clear turtles cannot survive without their shells, let us understand all aspects of a turtle shell. But first…

Why Do Turtles Have Shells?

Turtles are one of the oldest and the most primitive group of reptiles. They have existed for millions of years.

What we mainly know is that turtles have shells for protection from their predators. As they crawl very slowly, their hard shell is a boon for them, and it makes it extremely difficult for their predators to chew or get their jaws around them.

The shell of a turtle, without a doubt, plays an important role in protecting and defending itself from its predator. However, Tyler R. Lyson believes that the shells may have evolved to help the turtles dig.

According to his study, the turtle’s shell is designed in such a way that it helps in balancing, giving strength, and for digging purpose. The digging can be in mud for the search of food, or it can be in the sand to escape the extreme heat.

Okay! Now, we all know that turtles cannot survive without their shells. So, let’s now understand the main reasons behind it.

Why Can’t Turtles Live Without a Shell?

The shell of a turtle is what sets it apart from other creatures. The main reason that a turtle cannot live without its shell is that it is a part of its body.

A turtle without its shell will be handicapped. It will not be able to defend itself from its predators. The shell acts as a protection shield for a turtle.

Moreover, as turtles are very slow, they cannot run away if trapped and become easy prey. But, since the turtle shell is very hard, it becomes exceedingly difficult for its predators to break it.

Now, let’s understand the major reasons why it is difficult for a turtle to survive without its shell.

Given below are 4 main reasons why turtles cannot live without a shell:

  1. Self Defense: The turtle shell mainly acts as a self-defense mechanism of a turtle. A turtle is able to defend itself from its predators due to its hard and tough shell. Also, some species of turtles hide their vulnerable body parts, mainly their head, tail, and limbs into the shell to protect themselves from being killed.
  2. Absorbs Heat: As the color of the turtle shell is dark, it helps to absorb heat from the sun. On the other hand, the shell also helps protect the inside parts of a turtle from quickly overheating. Due to the shell, a turtle does not easily get dehydrated in direct sunlight. Another advantage of the shell is that it protects the turtle from exposure to bacteria, fungus, or viruses that are harmful to them.
  3. Skin Of A Turtle Shell: The shell of a turtle consist of its bones and skin. In the absence of its shell’s skin, the turtle’s nerve endings and its delicate dermal plates will be easily exposed to outside bacteria. This can turn out to be harmful to the turtle and make it difficult for the turtle to survive if its body parts get damaged or infected. Just like humans, turtles also cannot survive without their skin.
  4. Helps In Absorbing UV Light: Since a turtle shell is partially made up of skin, it plays an important role in the absorption of UV light. Also, it helps in synthesizing Vitamin D. The deficiency of Vitamin D in a turtle’s body results in Metabolic Bone Disease. Just like humans, Vitamin D3 is also essential for the sound health of turtles.

This was all about why a turtle finds it difficult to survive without its shell. Let’s now see if a turtle can get out of its shell.

Interesting Further Reading:

Can Turtles Get Out Of Their Shell?

Turtles cannot get out of their shells. The shell of a turtle consists of its bones and skin, and it is a part of its skeleton.

You cannot remove a turtle out of its shell. Attempting to do so will cause tremendous pain to the turtle, and it may eventually die.

While it is true that turtles cannot get out of their shell, they can, however, fold their limbs inside the shell. Some turtles can even close their shells so tight that it prevents anything from getting inside.

Now that you are well aware of the fact that turtles cannot survive without their shells let’s talk about what will happen if turtles lose their shell due to some reason.

What Happens If A Turtle Loses Its Shell?

A turtle without a shell is just like a human without a skin. Imagine that a person has lost his skin. Can he survive for long?

The same applies to a turtle as well. A turtle cannot leave its shell because it is an integral part of its skeleton. The shell of a turtle is attached to its body.

If a turtle loses its shell, it will rip its body parts apart. The turtle will lose its covering, or rather its protection, and its body parts will be totally exposed. So the turtle will not be able to defend itself and will be an easy prey to its predators.

Now, what happens if the shell of a turtle is broken or cracked? Can it still survive, or will it die?

Related Further Reading:

Can Turtles Survive With A Cracked Shell?

Turtles can survive a broken or cracked shell. However, it all depends on the extent of the injury to the shell.

A cracked shell is just like a cracked nail on your finger. If the shell of a turtle is broken or cracked, it can lead to some serious infections if it is not treated.

Now, it is not always true that the broken or cracked shell is a result of some injury. Sometimes, even poor diet, lack of calcium, or sunlight can lead to shell ulcers.

So, can a turtle die if its shell breaks?

If there is a typical hairline fracture in the shell, then a turtle will survive. However, if the shell is badly cracked, then a turtle will eventually die. The shell of a turtle is a critical part of its body as it holds the entire body together, and all of the turtle’s organs flow freely inside the shell.

If the shell breaks, it means that the body of the turtle is opened up. This is very deadly, and a turtle will not survive long before it dies.

Let’s now talk about whether a turtle shell can heal by itself and can it grow back.

Does A Turtle Shell Heal By Itself?

The turtle’s shell does heal by itself. This happens because the shell is made up of living, organic, and natural materials. However, if you have a pet turtle and its shell cracks or breaks, it is not advisable to ignore it, thinking it will heal by itself.

It is always a good idea to consult a veterinarian. Veterinarians can apply antibiotics that can help the healing process, and they can also seal the crack with a special bonding material.

Now, can a turtle’s shell grow back?

Turtle’s shell can get fractured if it is hit by a car or by a predator’s attack. In the wildlife, if a turtle’s shell is cracked or broken, it will heal on its own. At the same time, it can even regrow slowly.

Interesting Further Reading:

Parting Thoughts

A turtle cannot simply survive without its shell. It will experience a painful death.

Many people just look at the shell of a turtle as its protection from predators. But the shell performs many other vital functions too.

Even if a turtle lives in a peaceful environment without the fear of any predators, it will still not survive without its shell, just like other animals cannot survive without their skin, spine, or ribs.