Do Turtles Leave Their Shells?
Turtles may look like they have a static external armor-like structure, but in reality their shells are able to move. Turtles never outgrow their shells, so they never leave them.
Why Turtles Don’t Leave Their Shells
The shells of turtles are not just a protection they provide, they’re actually a part of their bodies. The shell is made up of bones and other specialized tissues and is covered by a keratinized layer of skin, much like our own nails.
The turtle’s shell is made up of separate plates (known as scutes) located on the upper “carapace” and lower “plastron” of their back and belly. While the bones that make up the shell do not grow, the scutes periodically shed and regrow. That, in combination with the fact that turtles internally can make modifications to the shape of their shells, allows them to take a lot more punishment from predators and environmental damage then one might expect.
What About Turtle Outgrowing Their Shells?
Growing turtles do require larger shells, but they are unable to find or produce these on their own. Turtles get around this limitation by periodically shedding and regrowing their scutes in a process known as “immutable empermatism”. As turtles age, the old scutes will wear away and the new scutes will grow. This allows for a snugger fit for their shells as the turtle grows.
Turtles, unlike other animals, never have to worry about “outgrowing” their shells, because their shells are a part of their bodies. With the ability to shed and regrow their scutes, turtles can have larger shells that fit their changing body sizes. They do not and cannot leave their shells behind.