Turtle Facts (Shell Hardness, Pain, Climbing and Tails)

Each animal has a unique characteristic that makes it stand out among others; the turtle’s such feature is its hard shell. Thanks to it, they have a solid defense against predators, making them survive extinction over the years.

So, how hard is a turtle shell? The shell is tremendously hard, able to hold extreme pressure, even 200 times equal to its weight. The exterior is so hard, that its fracture toughness (the force required to break a surface) is around 36.5MPa; this force is greater than that of aluminum. The shell’s toughness helps them in defense against most predators. On the contrary, the turtle shell is breakable by animals like crocodiles and honey badgers, and a bullet can easily penetrate it.

The turtle shell is indeed tough enough to protect it from most predators. However, the surface is not a full-proof armor, and, just like bones, it can crack. The shell provides the turtle protection but this is not absolute as sharks and even killer whales can prey on turtles without worrying overly about the turtle’s shell.

A turtles shell is also not bulletproof as a bullet can still penetrate the turtles shell due to the tremendous pressure a shot exerts on objects. As much as the shell cover is hard, it cannot withstand a bullet’s brutal force. Once the bullet penetrates the shell, the turtle bleeds due to the numerous nerve endings and bones attached to the shell. Therefore, when you hit the surface, blood flows, and the turtle has to bear or succumb to the injuries.

There are interconnected bones in the turtle’s shell that combine to form the ribs and the turtle’s spine. The exterior comprises keratin, the same material that makes our nails, and, at the top, there are plates called the scutes, shaped like squares.

Thanks to these plates, the turtle’s shell is so hard. Collectively, the scutes interconnect to make a shield, which we all know as the shell. Therefore, it is the tough scutes that make the shell tasking to penetrate or break. It is also important to note that the shell’s strength depends on the turtles’ size, the more giant the turtle, the harder its shell.

The turtle can withstand a lot of pressure on its shell, hundreds of times equal to its weight. Therefore, you will need so much pressure to break the cover successfully. The bullet, on the other hand, is potent due to its velocity and penetrative force.

Although the shell is hard, it cannot resist the bullet’s power, regardless of the caliber. The gun is one of the most instant ways to kill or severely injure the turtle. When you shoot at the turtle, it heavily bleeds, and without medical attention, the turtle may succumb to the injury.

Can Turtle Shell Withstand a Car?

One of the fatal things that can happen to a turtle is when a car runs over it. Although most people wouldn’t knowingly run over a turtle, accidents happen, especially at night. We investigated to determine what happens to a turtle’s shell in such instances.

A small car weighing half a ton without an extra load can fail to break a mature turtle shell, but a heavy vehicle can instantly kill or severely injure a turtle. However, there are several factors to consider before we make a final judgment.

First, it depends on how much pressure you exert and how hard the shell is, based on the turtle’s species. Some turtles have weaker amours while other species have tough ones. Also, the shell’s state matters; an empty one may be stronger than a living one.

Many turtles have been hit by cars on the roads due to drivers’ carelessness or bad weather. Most turtle species are small and dark; therefore, spotting them on the road may be challenging, especially in the dark. A car can hit a turtle, but if the pressure was not excessive, the turtle has survival chances, and may escape with minor injuries and a broken shell.

Vets can help restore an injured turtle to health; therefore, if you come across a severely wounded turtle, it is wise to seek specialized treatment first. However, there are still many instant death cases, especially when the car is too heavy for the shell to withstand the pressure. As a pet owner, we advise that you be cautious with your turtles as some tend to wander away from their enclosure.

Can Turtles Feel Pain in Their Shell?

A turtle shell is composed of keratin, a substance that makes human nails. Turtles are hardy reptiles who don’t express their pain aloud; therefore, it is somewhat difficult to tell whether they feel pain or not, but they will still communicate non-verbally.

Turtles can feel pain through their shell, since the shell is connected to the spine, and has nerve endings, they can feel it when something touches them. They even enjoy it when you scratch their shell. Therefore, if there is extreme pressure on them, causing the surface to break, the turtle may feel pain, and, if fatal, it can instantly die.

Due to the approximately 60 interconnected bones, they may bleed and even succumb to injuries if the shell breaks. The reptile’s shell contains nerve endings, making it sensitive to detect a predator’s presence quickly. Without the nerves underneath, anything can easily attack them without notice.

Turtles and humans can feel pain when part of their body with nerve endings is under pressure or has a physical injury. Whereas humans will cry out in pain, turtles will only behave in a certain way to show that they aren’t ok. You may have come across a turtle in tears, but that doesn’t mean they are in pain; they may release tears to clear dust in their eyes. However, some signs may help you detect any discomfort in your pet. For instance, they may lose appetite, become more hostile, or show imbalance when moving.

If you notice these or any other abnormalities, it is wise to consult a vet or an expert in your area. Notably, the pain your turtles feel depends on how strong their shell is. For sea turtles whose cover isn’t too hard, they can sense touch and pain from being slightly hit. On the other hand, turtles with more rigid shells will only feel it if you exert more pressure.

Do turtles have tails?

Most animals, including reptiles, mammals, and birds, have tails. According to research, even those currently without tails lost them due to millions of years of evolution. We also did our research to uncover whether the sea turtle has a tail.

All turtles have a tail, which they use for protection and mating. First, it houses the male reproductive organ and is essential in covering the cloaca, the urinary and reproductive tract. Secondly, the tail guides us to know the turtle’s gender, specifically when they attain sexual maturity. While the male turtle’s tail is thick, the female one is relatively shorter. However, the tail’s size and length relies on the reptile’s species.

Turtles have existed for millions of years, withstanding so many evolutionary changes. Since the tail is present in most other reptiles, the concern is whether the sea turtle has it, and if so, what is its role?

The turtles’ tails are our way of identifying their respective genders. The male turtle has a long tail while the female’s tail is short. In males, the tail houses the penis, which is the reproductive organ. However, in females, it acts as a protective cover for their cloaca opening. Thus, during mating, the female lifts the tail and returns it to its original position afterward.

Since the male turtle’s reproductive organ is at the tail, it is more prominent than in females. You will notice that it is longer and thicker, making it easy to identify the reptile’s sex. As soon as the turtles attain sexual maturity, they undergo rapid growth.

In these stages, you notice a significant increase in the tail size, which may grow past the hind flippers. In contrast, the female’s tail remains the same size during this vital stage. Therefore, by taking a closer look at a turtle, you can determine the gender.

For females, the tail is there to cover and protect the cloaca opening. It is through this opening that the reptiles eliminate waste materials. The entrance is also vital in reproduction; it is necessary for mating and egg-laying. Similarly, it is through this opening that other species lay live baby turtles. Therefore, the tail’s protective role is vital for the survival and continuation of the turtles’ species.

However, although the tail is a vital organ, it does not have the regenerative abilities seen in other reptiles. If it is damaged or clipped, the best one can do is to let it heal, since it cannot grow back to its original size or shape. Upon healing, the scar remains, but it becomes less noticeable with time. But the good news is that, if it’s a baby turtle, whose tail was still in the growth process, there are chances that it can grow again.

Do All Turtles Have a Tail?

Most animals, both domestic and wild, have tails. However, others, like humans, have evolved; therefore, it has become obsolete to leave vestigial structures in their place. Since various animal species are different, we aim to understand whether all turtle species have tails.

All turtles possess tails, regardless of their species. However, the tail’s overall appearance varies depending on the turtle’s age and species. For instance, for box turtles, the males have long tails while their vent is at the furthest point of the shell’s edge. On the other hand, their female counterparts have thin, short tails, and their opening is close to the shell.

On the other hand, the snapping turtles have long tails with bony plates, which may get more extended than the carapace. Generally, once sea turtles become sexually mature, you can easily differentiate the gender based on their tail’s size.

What Do Turtles Use Their Tails For?

Almost every organ in an animal’s body, whether internal or external, plays a significant role in its well-being. The turtle’s tail, for instance, is a vital body part just like the shell and other organs. We, therefore, need to highlight why it is crucial.

Other than for gender identification, the turtles’ tails are essential for reproduction, protection, and anchoring. In males, the penis is located in the tail, so the mating process cannot occur without it. Since in males it is longer, the reproductive organ is strategically located in the tail; this way, it is easy to access it.

Similarly, it helps females cover the cloaca, which is the organ responsible for excretion, mating, and reproduction as an egg-laying organ. Lastly, the tail helps the turtles balance as they navigate rough terrains in their habitats. It also helps them firmly grip the ground if it is too slippery.

The tail’s primary role is reproduction. For the males, their penis is located in the rear, so it comes in handy during the mating process. As soon as their bodies mature sexually, the tail tremendously grows, and it may grow longer, surpassing the hind flippers.

During mating, the male’s strong tail holds the female as he maneuvers to find the cloaca. Once he locates it, he penetrates and releases sperms necessary for egg fertilization. Even if other males try to interfere with the process, his long tail effectively blocks the opening.

Usually, female turtles use their tail to cover their vents and only lift them when mating. They lift it and move it to the side to allow penetration by the males, and once it is done, the tail returns to its original position. The tail covers this delicate organ for the rest of the time.

The cloaca is necessary for excretion and is the turtle’s reproductive opening for reproduction through egg-laying. Therefore, the female needs to have this organ protected at all costs. If not, there will be no mating or reproduction; here is where the tail comes in.

Lastly, the tail in other animals is crucial to help them navigate and balance. However, as much as one may think that the turtle uses its tail to help it swim, it is not the case. Their tail is not modified for such roles; instead, it only aids in rare occasions for anchorage. If the ground is slippery, they can use their tail to balance and grip the ground firmly for movement, especially if it is rocky.

Why does my turtle try to climb out?

Turtles make brilliant pets, so if you are a beginner trying to explore exotic pets, they are a great choice. However, new turtle keepers face challenges when trying to keep the pets in a favorable environment for their survival. There are instances of pets trying to move away from their tanks, which is entirely normal.

Your turtles may try to climb out of their enclosures in a bid to search for better living conditions. Such conditions include water, the right temperature, and a proper diet. Therefore, if the food and water you provide are not to their liking, they will try to find an alternative. They may also need to find a place with a basking area for thermoregulation. Lastly, your turtle may try to fight to escape the tank if they feel scared or stressed.

Turtles are sensitive to changes in their habitat, so they will respond whenever there are variations in their environment. Unless you provide their preferred conditions, they will try to find it for themselves. The following are the primary reasons why your little friend could try to climb out of their home.

1. Basking

Turtles, like all reptiles, are cold-blooded animals; therefore, they continuously regulate their body temperature. They need the perfect temperature levels for metabolism and general well being. Thus, most pet owners provide them with a basking area in their tank for them to get heat if it gets too cold.

The basking temperature needs to be right, not too high or too low. If too high, you will expose the turtle to excess heat, and they will scamper away to cooler areas in the tank. Otherwise, if the temperatures are too low, they will look for warmth elsewhere. If it is warmer outside, you will notice that they will try to climb out.

To stop this from happening, you can provide a basking area for them and frequently check the temperature levels using a thermometer. This way, you will monitor the heat levels and know whether to adjust them or not.

The moderate temperatures should be approximately 32°C; however, remember that the basking temperatures will differ depending on your pet’s turtle species. If you still have problems installing the basking area, you can consult your exotic vet, who can link you to a professional heat installer.

2. Habitat Issues

If you just brought a new turtle from another keeper, then it means that you are taking them away from the environment they are used to. So, it is only typical that they will take time to adjust to their new habitat.

It also means that they will have different weather and temperature. Therefore, it is only normal to find them trying to escape to look for their old environment. The turtle may keep up this behavior for weeks or months until they are more comfortable. In such cases, it would be best to avoid scaring the pet so that they quickly adjust.

3. Mating and Pregnancy

Turtles show irritation when they need to find their mate. During this period, they struggle to fight their way out to find a partner. Therefore, it is best to ensure that the turtles have a mate around, by having both a male and female turtle in the tank.

With time, you will realize that they won’t keep climbing out. Similarly, pregnant mother turtles may show signs of struggling when looking for a place to lay their eggs. Besides trying to leave the tank, you may also notice them trying to dig in their enclosure and refusing to eat.

4. Stress

The reptile can also get stress from their surroundings caused by new owners or other pets in the house. Turtles are sensitive, making them easy to scare. Hence, they may try to escape any environment that makes them uncomfortable. They are afraid of loud sounds and bigger pets, and they even go to the extent of not eating or basking.

However, it is easy to mitigate the situation to reduce their stress. You can lower the music volume in the house and keep the bigger pets away from them. As soon as you control these factors, you will notice that your pets will calm down and settle in their enclosure.

5. Diet Issues

Turtles need a proper diet for their health; therefore, you need to ensure that you provide the best diet for your pet as a keeper. They need the right food and the right amount; otherwise, they will climb out of their enclosure to look for it elsewhere.

It would help to research the best diet plan for your pet species so that you provide what they need. However, the good thing is that most turtles are omnivorous, meaning they can comfortably feed on vegetables and meat.

Why Is My Turtle Restless?

Turtles are one of the most sensitive pets to keep, unlike dogs or cats. Thus, you need to create the best environment for them; or else, they will be restless. Therefore, you need to know what to do to ensure that they remain calm.

If your turtle is female, she may be agitated because she needs to find a safe and comfortable place to lay her eggs. Secondly, your turtles may be jumpy or noisy if they are hungry or in a new environment. Also, your pet may be uneasy because they are suffering from an illness or an infection. Therefore, if you notice a prolonged uneasiness, it would help to consult your vet to ensure that everything is okay.

Why Does My Turtle Keep Trying To Climb Out of Its Tank?

Turtles may be quite needy, but once you learn how to deal with them and provide for their needs, you will find out that they are excellent pets. The reptile may be swimming against the tank, which is a common sight, but if it is trying to get out of the enclosure, there must be something wrong.

First, the tank water may be dirty and unsuitable for the turtle to survive, so they will try to climb out. Hence, you need to regularly supply fresh water and use recommended filters in the aquarium. Additionally, your pet may want to climb out of the tank as the temperatures are unfavorable. For this, you can install a thermostat to help regulate the heat levels.

Also, the female turtles may wish to lay and hide their eggs. If there are no plants or hiding spots in the tank, they will try to climb out to find a better place. Lastly, the turtles may try to escape to look for food if you are not providing enough.


Every animal has at least one unique feature to help protect it from predators, and over many years, the turtle has used its shell for protection like its counterpart, the tortoises. The cover is tough, so when under attack, they have a protective shield for safety.

Therefore, you will need to exert tremendous pressure to get through to it. However, as much as the shell is rigid, there are still ways to break it. For instance, if a powerful animal like an alligator attacks a turtle, the chances are high that it will fail.

Similarly, if a heavy vehicle runs over a turtle, there are minimal chances of a turtle surviving. Also, the turtle cannot resist a bullet’s brutal force. Besides, the shell can break due to natural reasons such as inadequate vitamin D and improper diet. It is also important to note that the shell’s strength depends on the turtle species and size; while some surfaces are extremely tough, others are not.

The tail is an integral part of a turtle’s body, explaining why it has remained present even after millions of years of evolution. First, it helps us differentiate between male and female turtles, because the male’s tail is more prominent than the female’s. But, most importantly, without the organ, there will be no reproduction, which may result in wiping out the species. It is vital for males since it houses the penis, while in females, it protects the cloaca, which is the vaginal opening.

We have also noted that the tail sometimes helps in anchoring when the ground is slippery or rocky. Therefore, it is a critical organ for the turtle. Therefore, as a pet owner, it is best to be careful in handling and caring for your pet. If something goes wrong, causing the tail to fall off or chip, the chances of it re-growing are very slim.

Turtles are pretty easy to handle as pets, making them easy to keep. They are also omnivorous; hence, they can feed on the regular human diet, minimizing your feeding budget. As long as you provide a conducive environment for them, they will remain healthy and happy.

The more you stay with your pet, the better you will understand their cues. Therefore, you will tell if they want to mate, lay eggs, or when they are hungry. You will also tell if they are unwell based on frequent restlessness. If they are restless, you will notice that they will try to escape the tank to look for a favorable environment. So, it would help to learn your pet to provide the best conditions for them.

Bal Kang

Bal Kang is an owner of several pets including reptiles, cats and dogs. An avid writer, who loves to share her insights into caring for pets.

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