Why Turtles Can’t Survive Without Their Shells

David Anderson of Science Insider consulted with biologist Maria Wojakowski to learn about what goes on below the surface of the shell and why a turtle could not survive without their shell.

As it turns out, the shell is also part of the turtle’s basic anatomy, just as a ribcage is to humans. The shell also assists the animal with aerobic and anaerobic breathing, digestion and provides internal and external protection.

A turtle’s shell is as much a part of its body as our rib cage is of ours. In fact, it is their rib cage, and their spine, and their vertebrae, and their sternum. Basically, a turtle’s skeleton is inside out. And just like you can’t take a skeleton out of a person, right, you can’t take a turtle out of its shell either. But if you could, you’d probably be surprised by what you’d discover.