Turtle Shell Shedding: Detaching Armor Plates In Sea Turtles

As turtles (and other reptiles) grow, their skin doesn’t grow with them, so they need to shed their skin regularly. Tortoises will have this in shreds on their feet, neck, and head, as long as the skin underneath looks normal and not red this is perfectly normal. Ornamental turtles, turtles, and mute turtles shed their skins on the shell, plate by plate. The detaching plates are wafer-thin. You can usually see when a plate starts to loosen, then there is a little air underneath and the plate appears dull in the water. If you see that an armor plate is not coming off properly, you should help, because bacteria and dirt can collect underneath. However, a healthy turtle should not have such problems. It is important that the animal can sunbathe sufficiently and dry off quickly. Therefore, 40-45°C must be reached in the sunbathing area, preferably with an HQI.

Did you know that every armored shield has a name? Even two, one German and one scientific.

The back armor is also called carapace. At the very front is the cervical shield or neck shield. The vertebral shields or vertebralia go along the spine along the back. To the left and right of this are the rib shields or costalia. Both the rib and vertebral shields are referred to as disk shields. At the edge of the back armor are the so-called marginalia or edge shields. If you look at the belly plate (or plastron), the edge shields can also be seen from there. At the front of the plastron are the throat shields or gulars, then come the arm shields or humerals, then the breast shield or pectorals. In the armpit, turtles have the axillary or axillary shield. On the belly is the abdominal or ventral shield. Then comes the femoral or leg shield and finally the anal or anal shield. In the rear leg opening there is also the hip shield or inguinale.

Is it bad if my turtle shell is peeling?

If you’ve noticed your turtle shedding on its shell, it’s likely that the pieces of this hard layer – called scutes – are preparing for new growth. 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.

It can be quite alarming to see parts of your turtle’s shell start to flake off, turn white, or feel soft. Sometimes, the peeling or flaking of the shell and white spots are completely benign and part of the natural cycle of life; however, in some cases, they can be cause for serious concern.

Why is my turtles skin peeling?

There are several reasons why a turtle may slough the full-thickness of the skin, and they are all related to medical problems, such as thermal burns, chemical burns, trauma, bacterial infections (especially from anaerobic bacteria) or from injectable vitamin A administration and overdose.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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