Turtles are cute creatures, aren’t they? If you have ever seen one, you would notice that if you or anything gets too close to them, they just retreat back into their shells.
And if cartoons are to be believed, they can even completely come out of their shells, it’s no big deal.
Now, just like most of you, while I didn’t really believe the cartoons, for obvious reasons, what I didn’t know was that the shells actually act as a part of their skeletal system!
Which means, turtles are not just inside their shells, they are their shells.
Daily reminder that turtles are not “inside” their shells. They *are* their shells. pic.twitter.com/CS8UcDE3o2— Ada McVean 🧬 (@AdaMcVean) April 21, 2020
Twitter user Adam McVean rightly points out (we also confirmed this independently) that unlike mollusks, which can leave their shells because they are a part of their exoskeleton, turtles, being vertebrates can’t leave their shells, because that’s their exoskeleton.
BTW, all cartoon representations of turtles hiding in their shells are wrong. It rather looks something like this.
Turtles can hide in their shells. It looks like this. pic.twitter.com/M9XlW2XVN7— Ada McVean 🧬 (@AdaMcVean) April 21, 2020
It does not look like this.— Ada McVean 🧬 (@AdaMcVean) April 21, 2020
They don’t have a secret cavern in there. There’s no mini-fridge. It’s not a Pokeball. pic.twitter.com/1PsgquNj2C
S/O to cartoons and stock image sites for ruining our collective turtle anatomy knowledge for years to come pic.twitter.com/pz1sHl2RSc— Ada McVean 🧬 (@AdaMcVean) April 21, 2020
Also, have you seen that picture of a turtle inside out? Yeah, that’s not an inside out picture either!
Also, some people will try to tell you this is an image of a turtle outside its shell. It’s not.— Ada McVean 🧬 (@AdaMcVean) April 21, 2020
It’s a soft-shelled turtle (those exist! instead of scutes they cover the solid bit of their carpace, or shell, with leathery skin. They do still have a shell, just a small one ) pic.twitter.com/PzvkUH1EOH
McVean has also let out some fun fact about these magnificent creatures. Apparently they breathe out of their butts.
Technically the term is cloacal respiration, and it’s not so much breathing as just diffusing oxygen in and carbon dioxide out, but the fact remains: when turtles hibernate, their main source of oxygen is through their butt.— Ada McVean 🧬 (@AdaMcVean) April 22, 2020
Basically when the water they live in gets cold they get cold since they’re cold blooded animals.— Ada McVean 🧬 (@AdaMcVean) April 22, 2020
Their metabolisms and oxygen needs slow down so they can get all the O2 they need from the water passing over their cloacas. pic.twitter.com/KKAarFJ4sS
These are amazing creatures borne out of millions of years of evolution, with some of them living up to 80 years while bigger ones can live up to 200 years. That’s something, isn’t it?