Is there any animal more easily recognizable than a turtle? With that characteristic shell, scaly body, and wise-looking face, turtles are admired and loved by many. But how do turtles’ shells really protect them? Can a turtle leave its shell behind and get a new one as it grows? Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a turtle and explore how it is put together for survival.
Turtles differ greatly in coloration and adaptations among the many species, but they all have some general things in common. Let’s start with the general body shape. Turtles and tortoises have a body covered in a shell, four legs that extend from their body, and many have a tail extending from the rear of their shell as well. They all have a head with eyes on either side and a beak-like mouth. Many have sharp ridges in their mouths that act like our teeth. Turtles have nostrils, which help with their sense of smell, and their ears are internal and allow them to hear. Turtles are ectothermic, which means their bodies are the temperature of their surroundings. They bask in the sun to warm up or head to water, shade or shelter to cool down. In the winter, species may brumate in the ground or mud at the bottom of ponds to keep from freezing.