Turtle Shell Anatomy

A turtle shell primarily acts as a
shield covering most of the turtle’s vital organs and protecting it from outside
dangers. In all turtles, the inner portion of the
shell is composed of bones. The outer shell is sometimes hardened by keratin and sometimes by a leathery skin. Some species of turtles in Wisconsin
look much alike. By properly learning features of the turtle shell you’ll be better able to
identify each species. The top of the shell is known as the campus and is also
known as the dorsal or back portion the turtle. This
convex structure is mainly composed of the rib cage,
armored skin, and scutes of the turtle. Scutes are pigmented plates made up of
keratin. As turtles grow in size, scutes shedded and replaced. The bottom of the shell is known as the plastron. This ventral or belly section of the turtle is nearly flat. In some turtles the front
and back sections can hinge open-and-shut protecting the turtle inside. As males mature they develop an inward
curvature of the plastron, which helps them mate
with females. Scutes can also be found on the plastron
with six laterally symmetric pairs. The keel of a turtle is a ridge running lengthwise down
the center of the carapace. This feature can be more or less
serrated depending on the species of turtle. Peaks can be identified as they raises
points on the back end of the scutes on the keel