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Turtles and tortoises form the oldest living group of reptiles on earth; fossil evidence suggests that turtles were alive during the Triassic Period, which was over million years ago. They have evolved little since this time and remain well-adapted for a variety of different environments; in fact, turtles can be found on every continent except Antarctica. In Missouri, seventeen species of turtles can be found.
Understand the shell and how to care for it safely and effectively is essential for every turtle or tortoise owner. The back of the shell is called the carapace, and the belly of the shell is called the plastron. The bones of the shell are covered with a thick layer of skin and hard layers of keratin, the same protein found that makes up hair and fingernails.
Turtleorder Testudinesany reptile with a body encased in a bony shellincluding tortoises. Although numerous animalsfrom invertebrates to mammalshave evolved shells, none has an architecture like that of turtles. The turtle shell has a top carapace and a bottom plastron.
Turtles stand alone among living and extinct backboned animals because of the unique hard shell that encases their bodies. Other animals, like the armadillo, evolved body armor, but the turtle shell fully integrates the backbone and trunk ribs. The turtle shell is made up of rows of firmly connected bony plates, which are covered by horny plates, or scutes.
Turtle shell rattles are percussion instruments used by Indigenous peoples of the Americas in ceremonial contexts to keep rhythm. Archaeological investigations in the southeastern United States produced several complete and partial Eastern box turtle Terrapene carolina shell rattles from mortuary contexts dating from the Archaic ca. AD —
The evolutionary riddle of the turtle shell is one step closer to being solved thanks to groundbreaking research published this week in Science. A team of Japanese scientists has uncovered anatomical clues charting the developmental path by which the turtle acquired its shell. Turtle morphology poses a unique puzzle in that the turtle's scapulae shoulder bladessituated outside the ribs in other animals, are found inside its shell which is formed from the bones equivalent to ribs in other species.
The turtle shell is a highly complicated shield for the ventral and dorsal parts of turtlestortoises and terrapins all classified as "turtles" by zoologistscompletely enclosing all the vital organs of the turtle and in some cases even the head. The bone of the shell consists of both skeletal and dermal boneshowing that the complete enclosure of the shell probably evolved by including dermal armor into the rib cage. The shell of the turtle is an important study, not just because of the obvious protection it provides for the animal, but also as an identification tool, in particular with fossils as the shell is one of the likely parts of a turtle to survive fossilization. Hence understanding the structure of the shell in living species gives us comparable material with fossils.
Who won the race—the tortoise or the hare? To experts, though, there is a difference. United States environmentalists and scientists make a distinction between turtles that live in the sea called turtles or sea turtlesturtles that live on land called turtles or tortoisesand turtles that are semi-aquatic or prefer brackish water called terrapins.
Digging in a German quarry, paleontologists unearthed a very primitive early turtle from rock around million years old. The find exhibited some of the tell-tale signs of turtle shell plate development, but much earlier than previously known examples. The find provides a final piece of evidence that turtle shells evolved over time from earlier precursor structures, not all at once at a later time as some researchers thought.