Turtle scutes

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Turtle scutes

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A turtle's shell is composed of about 60 bones. The bony shell is covered with a thin layer of epithelium, which produces the hard outer shell layer, called the scutes. The scutes are plate-like scales similar in composition to the keratin of fingernails.

turtle scutes

They protect the bones and epithelium of the shell underneath. As the turtle grows, the epithelium produces a new scute beneath the old ones that is a larger diameter than the one layered on top of it, allowing the shell to expand.

In most turtles and tortoises, the scutes remain on the shell for life, which causes the shell to thicken and protects it. The outer layers of scutes can be worn down, especially in burrowing tortoises, but are not normally shed. In many species of water turtles Genera ChrysemysDeirochelysGraptemysPseudemysTrachemys and Malaclemyshowever, they shed the outer layer of scutes annually.

This keeps the shell from getting so thick and heavy that it makes it hard to swim, and it also helps to rid the shell of coatings of algae and other things that grow in an aquatic environment.

It's perfectly normal for water turtles to shed their scutes as they grow. But a peeling shell can also indicate disease, depending on the type of turtle and whether it's healthy. In addition to shedding scutes, all turtles and tortoises shed the skin on their legs and necks. A turtle's skin is different from yours because it's not elastic and doesn't stretch to allow for growth. As turtles grow, you'll see that they outgrow and shed their old skin in stages.

This is most noticeable in aquatic turtles, and it also serves as a way to stave off infections. Healthy shedding occurs as part of a water turtle's normal growth, as the shell expands with the rest of its growing body. Other common reasons for shell problems include bacteria, parasitesalgae, environmental issues, and poor nutrition. It's important to be able to distinguish healthy shedding from problems that could endanger your pet's health or life. First, determine whether the shell under the peeling scutes looks normal.

Anytime the shell looks deformed, reddened or bloody under the scute, has exposed bone, or the shell feels soft or spongy, there's a problem and you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. You should also see a vet if your turtle is continuously shedding scutes or the scutes are peeling but not falling completely off.

Turtle Shell Peeling? What to do during shedding! - Turtle 101

Peeling as part of the growth process is normal as long as the thin layers come off, revealing shell that looks and feels normal. Dysecdysis abnormal shedding can leave your pet's shell exposed and vulnerable to infection. It can also be a sign of liver, kidney, thyroid, or bone diseaseor a nutritional deficiency. Bacterial shell rot is another serious problem, which can lead to permanent shell deformity.

Other reasons why your turtle might shed abnormally include:. Treatment depends on the severity and cause of your turtle's dysecdysis. If the problem is relatively mild, start by ensuring that conditions in your pet's habitat are optimal. In some cases, minor changes to your pet's enclosure can eliminate the problem. Check to be sure that:. If the problem is more serious or is not alleviated by changes to the habitat, it's best to check with the vet.

turtle scutes

While it's possible for you to remove fungi and algae from your turtle's shell, it's easy to injure the shell.Unlike a snail, a turtle is not able to trade in one shell for another if it's damaged or just doesn't fit anymore. The turtle's shell never falls off and is never too large or too small because it grows with the turtle.

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It's made from the turtle's rib cage and spine and is attached to the internal bones of the turtle's body. Just as your vertebrae grow with you, the same is true for a turtle's shell. For most species, as the turtle and its shell grow, the scutes on the shell shed or peel away to make way for new, larger scutes. Shedding is a natural process, and scutes are cast off intermittently during daily activities such as swimming and basking.

Since turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, they rely on external ways of heating and cooling themselves. Basking is nothing more than lying in the sunand it happens to be a favorite turtle pastime.

While basking is one way turtles raise their body temperature, it helps them shed scutes by drying them up, leaving them ready to fall off. Some turtles, such as the South American river turtle lend each other a hand, well, specifically their jaw, in the shedding process by pulling loose scutes and algae off each other's shells [source: San Diego Zoo ]. This is done gently, though, since both pain and pressure can be felt through the shell.

When old scutes aren't suitably shed or are shed too often, turtle shells can develop infection and disease. Dysecdysiswhich is a fancy term for abnormal scute shedding, can cause infection. In rare instances, scutes are shed too frequently, leaving the bones of the shell unprotected and soft; abundant scute shedding has been linked to larger problems such as renal failure.

Shell health is also dependent on bone health. Metabolic bone diseasecaused by inadequate calcium intake, poor exposure to sunlight, as well as diseases of the liver, kidneys and thyroid, can result in soft or misshapen shell bones. Ulcers also known as shell rotcan cause permanent shell and scute deformities. Shell disease doesn't occur as frequently as injury, however. Fractured shells are common and happen when turtles are hit by cars or attacked by wildlife. Some veterinarians are able to repair broken shells with bonding material, but one of the fantastic things about a turtle shell is that since it's made of living materials, it can slowly repair itself and regrow.

For more information about turtles and other reptiles, slowly peruse our list of resources on the following page.Your browser does not support inline frames or is currently configured not to display inline frames. This portion covers the following symptoms and medical situations:.

Pictured below is an example of what SCUD can look like. It has difference appearances, and as I get photos of other examples, I will publish them here. Wet SCUD. This is either bacterial infection or fungal infection. This is usually the result of a crack, break, cut or other type of lesion in the shell that has become infected.

The typical cause for a fungal infection is the turtle being unable to get completely dry. Untreated, it can quickly progress into septicemia. The most common causes of this condition are water quality and injuries, albeit minor at times, from habitat decorations scratched while climbing, swimming or diving into the water, substrate, heater burns, etc.

It appears most times as white patches on shell. The treatment below is similar to that of the wet form of SCUD, while serious infections will require the addition of systemic medications.

Better results have been gained from keeping the turtle in the alternate treatment described above with the water treated with Acriflavine as well. Frye shows that pathogens that can cause SCUD can be carried by shrimp.

This is a prescription medication that is used to treat human burn victims. It is very effective. This condition is commonly confused with Shell Rot and shell bacterial growth. It is difficult to discern the difference between the two, and the identifying features that are used to assist in determining the two apart or confusing and sometimes inconclusive and misleading. The only way to verify that a condition is true Shell-Rot or bacterial in nature, is to have it tested to verify the presence of organic material.

Mineral Deposits Pic provided by Wlliam This is caused from having water that is heavy with minerals. A key feature to mineral deposits is that the scutes will be clear underneath, and this will be evident once the turtle sheds. There will be a white-to-off-white coating or glazing over the scutes.

There will be no pitting and if pitting is present, it may be light or there might be a bacterial infection present as well. Remove turtle and place in a quarantine tank. The infected areas should be cleaned and, if need be, affected scutes removed to ensure effective treatment underneath. Remove all squishy, off-white colored material. Be careful as the infection may have gone deep. Going too deep may cause you to penetrate into the body cavity.

If you see that you will have to go more then a little bit past the surface of the shell, stop and seek veterinary assistance. Listed below is a regimen that I have followed in treating shell problems and has yielded great results.

Keep in mind that shell injuries will take months and sometimes years to get back to looking normal if the possibility exists. It takes weeks before the shell will look like it's getting better.

While treating, you are not looking for signs of healing or repair - you are looking to ensure that it is not spreading. Clean infected areas thoroughly with a strong, undiluted betadine, iodine or Nolvasan solution. Let the turtle air dry in a warm setting for about 45 minutes.

Apply a generous coating of Silvadene cream.Turtle shell peeling is a normal, natural process that all turtle species go through. This article will quickly teach you how to recognize healthy peeling, and what to expect.

But not one bone, but many. The average turtle shell has around 60 bones. These scutes are made up of keratin, the same substance that your own nails, finger and toe alike, are made up of. A turtle peels and sheds its skin and shell for a number of reasons, but primarily it is to grow.

However, turtles do not have elastic skin in the same way that you or I do. Its shell is the same way. Shedding scutes is also a means to stave off and fight shell rot, infection and sickness. You see, one of the reasons that turtle will bask layout in the sunbesides to dry out its shell and skin, is to raise its internal temperature. The reason for this is that shell rot and parasitic infection are much prone to occur in the water, and so turtles that spend a higher proportion of their lives in said water, are much more at risk from this.

Other types of turtles, such as box turtles, do not shed their scutes as often. And when they do, it is largely as part of a healing process. Right before a turtle hibernates, it will sometimes experience some peeling. This is totally natural and will prepare it for the long sleep ahead. However, a turtle will typically shed much more often right after emerging from hibernation, where it will bask quite often.

If your aquarium has a substrate or rocky bottom or has plants, they may be lodged in there somewhere. As turtles get older their shell peeling becomes less conspicuous. And sometimes when it does, there are very real bad reasons for this such as from the list above. With healthy turtle shell peeling and shedding, the scutes will simply fall off, as a whole usually.The turtle shell is a highly complicated shield for the ventral and dorsal parts of turtlestortoises and terrapins all classified as "turtles" by zoologistscompletely enclosing all the vital organs of the turtle and in some cases even the head.

The bone of the shell consists of both skeletal and dermal boneshowing that the complete enclosure of the shell probably evolved by including dermal armor into the rib cage.

Scute (Shell) Shedding in Water Turtles

The shell of the turtle is an important study, not just because of the obvious protection it provides for the animal, but also as an identification tool, in particular with fossils as the shell is one of the likely parts of a turtle to survive fossilization.

Hence understanding the structure of the shell in living species gives us comparable material with fossils. The shell of the hawksbill turtleamong other species, has been used as a material for a wide range of small decorative and practical items since antiquity, but is normally referred to as tortoiseshell. The turtle shell is made up of numerous bony elements, generally named after similar bones in other vertebrates, and a series of keratinous scutes which are also uniquely named.

Some of those bones that make the top of the shell, carapaceevolved from the scapula rami of the clavicles along with the dorsal and superficial migration of the cleithra.

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The actual suture between the bridge and the plastron is called the anterior bridge strut. This is not the case in Cryptodires which have a floating pelvis.

The bones of the shell are named for standard vertebrate elements. As such the carapace is made up of 8 pleurals on each side, these are a combination of the ribs and fused dermal bone. Outside of this at the anterior of the shell is the single nuchal bone, a series of 12 paired periphals then extend along each side. At the posterior of the shell is the pygal bone and in front of this nested behind the eighth pleurals is the suprapygal.

Between each of the pleurals are a series of neural bones, [6] which although always present are not always visible, [7] in many species of Pleurodire they are submerged below the pleurals. Below this the rest of the vertebral column. They are present in most Pelomedusid turtles. The skeletal elements of the plastron are also largely in pairs. Anteriorly there are two epiplastra, with the hyoplastra behind them. These enclose the singuar entoplastron. These make up the front half of the plastron and the hyoplastron contains the anterior bridge strut.

The posterior half is made up of two hypoplastra containing the posterior bridge strut and the rear is a pair of xiphiplastra. Overlying the boney elements are a series of scutes, which are made of keratin and are a lot like horn or nail tissue. In the center of the carapace are 5 vertebral scutes and out from these are 4 pairs of costal scutes.

Around the edge of the shell are 12 pairs of marginal scutes. All these scutes are aligned so that for the most part the sutures between the bones are in the middle of the scutes above. At the anterior of the shell there may be a cervical scute sometimes incorrectly called a nuchal scute however the presence or absence of this scute is highly variable, even within species. On the plastron there are two gular scutes at the front, followed by a pair of pectorals, then abdominals, femorals and lastly anals.

A particular variation is the Pleurodiran turtles have an intergular scute between the gulars at the front, giving them a total of 13 plastral scutes. Compared to the 12 in all Cryptodiran turtles. The carapace is the dorsal backconvex part of the shell structure of a turtleconsisting of the animal's ossified ribs fused with the dermal bone. The spine and expanded ribs are fused through ossification to dermal plates beneath the skin to form a hard shell. Exterior to the skin the shell is covered by scuteswhich are horny plates made of keratin that protect the shell from scrapes and bruises.

A keela ridge that runs from front to the back of the animal is present in some species, these may be single, paired or even three rows of them.A scute or scutum Latin scutumplural: scuta " shield " is a bony external plate or scale overlaid with horn, as on the shell of a turtlethe skin of crocodiliansand the feet of birds.

The term is also used to describe the anterior portion of the mesonotum in insects as well as some arachnids e. Scutes are similar to scales and serve the same function.

Unlike the scales of lizards and snakes, which are formed from the epidermisscutes are formed in the lower vascular layer of the skin and the epidermal element is only the top surface [ citation needed ]. Forming in the living dermisthe scutes produce a horny outer layer that is superficially similar to that of scales.

Scutes will usually not overlap as snake scales but see the pangolin. The outer keratin layer is shed piecemeal, and not in one continuous layer of skin as seen in snakes or lizards.

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The dermal base may contain bone and produce dermal armour. Scutes with a bony base are properly called osteoderms. Dermal scutes are also found in the feet of birds and tails of some mammalsand are believed to be the primitive form of dermal armour in reptiles. The term is also used to describe the heavy armour of the armadillo and the extinct Glyptodonand is occasionally used as an alternative to scales in describing snakes or certain fishes, such as sturgeonsshad, herring, and menhaden.

The turtle's shell is covered by scutes formed mostly of keratin. They are built similarly to horn, beak, or nail in other species.

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The tarsometatarsus and toes of most birds are covered in two types of scales. Large scutes run along the dorsal side of the tarsometatarsus and toes, whereas smaller scutellae run along the sides. Both structures share histochemical homology with reptilian scales, however work on their evolutionary development has revealed that the scales in bird feet have secondarily evolved via suppression of the feather-building genetic program.

Evolutionary developmental studies on these scale-like structures have revealed that they are composed entirely of alpha keratin true epidermal scales are composed of a mix of alpha and beta keratin. The term "scutum" is also used in insect anatomy, as an alternative name for the anterior portion of the mesonotum and, technically, the metanotumthough rarely applied in that context.

In the hard ticksthe Ixodidaethe scutum is a rigid, sclerotised plate on the anterior dorsal surface, just posterior to the head. In species with eyes, the eyes are on the surface of the scutum. The flexible exoskeleton posterior to the rigid scutum of the female tick, is called the alloscutumthe region that stretches to accommodate the blood with which the mature female tick becomes engorged. Males do not engorge nearly as drastically as females, so they do not need a flexible alloscutum; instead the rigid scutum covers practically the entire dorsal surface posterior to the head, and may be referred to specifically as the conscutum.

In some species of Opilionesfused abdominal segments are referred to as a scutum.Learn something new every day More Info A scute is a bony plate or shield-like scale found on the skin of some reptilesbirds, and mammals. Although similar in appearance to scales, scutes have different origins and properties. Some scientists speculate that the structures may provide clues to the early evolution of feathers, since many dinosaurs, widely considered as closely related to birds, also had scutes.

Reptiles with prominent scutes include crocodiles, alligators, and turtles. These scutes have a bony base and are known as osteoderms.

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In turtles and tortoises, the entire carapace, or upper shell, is a structure of fused scutes. The scutes running down the center of the shell along the spine are called central scutes. The next rows of scutes on either side of the spine are called costal scutes, and the outer scutes are known as marginal scutes. Each scute forms in a lower layer of the skin, the dermis, under the epidermis.

It may contain bone at its base, in which case it is known as an osteoderm. The rest of the scute consists of a fibrous protein, also found in horns, known as keratin. Unlike snakes and lizards that shed their entire outer layer of skin, animals with these structures shed only the outer layer of keratin. Scales are distinct from scutes in that they develop out of the epidermis rather than the dermis.

Birds and mammals, like reptiles, can have scutes.

Turtle shell

In birds, they are dermal structures on the feet. Mammals such as armadillos and pangolins have plate-like osteoderms that form a layer of armor. As in crocodilians, scutes in mammals serve a protective function.

turtle scutes

Researchers investigating the ancestry of birds have used scutes as a possible lead in finding the origin of feathers. It has been theorized that feathers evolved from reptilian scales, but testing has revealed that feathers and scales are genetically and chemically different. Scutes, on the other hand, may be genetically more closely linked with feathers.

It is even possible that scutes evolved from feathers, rather than vice versa. Fossil discoveries have indicated that many dinosaurs likely had feathers, and that feathers themselves may be a more primitive characteristic than previously thought. If this is true, it is possible that birds and dinosaurs evolved from a common feathered ancestor.

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Some scientists speculate that the scute could have developed from an early feather structure on an ancestral organism of this type. One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted.

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