Shell Game: Can Sea Turtles Hide In Their Shells?

can sea turtles hide in their shells

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Sea turtles are marine reptiles that have a shell that acts as a shield for the ventral and dorsal parts of turtles.

The shell is vital for their protection as it offers their important parts protection by enclosing all their organs in it, sometimes even their heads.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at sea turtle shells and specifically answer, can sea turtles hide in their shells?

In a nutshell (no pun intended), no, sea turtles can not hide in their shells. Unlike their land-based relatives, sea turtles are unable to retract their limbs and head into their shells.

Can Sea Turtles Hide Inside Their Shells?

Sea turtles are unable to retract into their shells like some other species of turtles and tortoises.

That said, this doesn’t put them at so much of a disadvantage as they have other ways to make up for the lack of protection.

Tortoises and some turtles have the ability to retract fully into their shell, which offers them incredible protection from being eaten by predators.

Sea turtles on the other hand do not have this ability, but they do have smaller and flatter shells than their land counterparts allowing them to be speedy and agile in the water.

All sea turtles have evolved flippers that allow them to move at speeds of up to 35km/h in the water, making them much faster than the species that carry a bulky, heavy shells for protection.

This speed and agility mean that sea turtles are able to escape and evade many ocean predators, so they do not need a large, thick shell for protection.

Dangers Of Not Hiding

As sea turtles are unable to retract into their shells when they are scared or sense danger, this puts them in a much more vulnerable position, especially on land.

Sea turtles venture on land to lay their eggs, but if a predator comes along on land they simply are unable to move fast enough to escape them and may find themselves shortly becoming a meal.

Not only that, but as very few people know that sea turtles are unable to retract into their shells, they assume that the turtles are friendly and not scared of you.

It’s important to note that sea turtles in the wild are likely just as scared of you as other species of turtle or tortoise would be, and if they could retract in their shells they probably would.

We encourage our readers to avoid physically interacting with sea turtles as just because they are not able to hide in their shells does not mean they are not scared of you.

Also, the fact that sea turtles can not hide in their shells makes them much more susceptible to being snagged on fishing nets and marine debris.

This can make them an easy target for predators and also cause sea turtles to drown if they are unable to reach the surface to breathe.

Can Other Turtles Go Inside Their Shells?

A turtle’s shell is crucially important to its survival, it contains all of its vital organs and provides them with the protection they need from predators.

Almost all species of turtle are able to retract their heads and limbs into their shells, however, sea turtles are unable to do this.

Most semi-aquatic and terrestrial turtles do have the ability to retract into their shells, but some freshwater aquatic turtles are only able to retract partially.

Why Do Turtles Go Inside Of Their Shells?

When turtles sense danger they retract into their shells as a form of protection and use their shell as a shield to prevent predators from being able to eat them.

Turtle shells are made from bone covered in hard plates called scutes, which makes it incredibly difficult for predators to take a bite out of the turtle.

Many turtles will also sleep inside their shells to stay protected during the night. Even many pet turtles sleep inside their shells likely as a survival instinct to stay safe.

With that said, turtle shells are part of their body, so they do feel pain just as though you were touching their skin.

It’s easy to assume that a turtle’s shell is not part of its body but instead just protection, but they are unable to detach from its shells and can feel pain through it.

What Happens When A Turtle Goes Inside Its Shell?

When a turtle retracts inside of its shell it is trying to protect itself from dangers that come from outside, such as predators.

Nothing particularly interesting happens inside of the shell, aside from the turtle doing its utmost to survive a potential threat or sleep.

Check out this interesting video on what’s inside a turtle shell:

Final Thoughts

Can sea turtles hide in their shells? No, they cannot. Sea turtles, unlike some other species and tortoises, are unable to retract s they have evolved to have other means of protecting themselves.

Sea turtles have large flippers and a flatter, lighter shells which means they are able to move quickly through the water to evade predators.

That said, as they have no shells they are much more open to predators or being entangled in nets or marine pollution, which can cause them to become trapped and drown.

On land, sea turtles are incredibly vulnerable as their limbs and heads are constantly exposed and they are unable to move fast enough to escape if a predator does strike.

Hopefully, this post has been useful and you’ve learned something new today about sea turtles and why they are unable to retract into their shells.