Gee Whiz

The Real Ninja Turtles

Are land turtles really ninjas with shields attached to their backs? Actually the shells are their backbone, a total of 60 bones all put together to form a hard surface. This surface includes the ribs and its skin which means the turtle cannot climb out of its shell! All the bones are attached to the turtle creating what appears to be a separate shell. But it is attached!

 Shape of the “Shield”

The land turtles have large, round shells, which help protect them from predators. The predators are the other animals that would want to eat the turtles. Other smaller land turtles need smaller, cross shaped shells. The shell is really heavy. With a heavy shell the turtle needs ways to be able to walk better. The small, but still strong shells help with walking. With the shells being so heavy and strong, they do act as shields! Protecting the turtles from the bad guys.

Skin and Bones

What exactly are all those bones, ribs and skin doing on the shell? Well, the 60 bones are many ribs and backbones all put together to help the turtle survive. The upper part of the shell is called the carapace. The lower part of the shell is called the plastron. These parts come together to form a bridge. That’s right the turtle’s shells have bridges on them! The outer shell also has scales on it. The scales have a lot of protein, which helps the turtle live its life. The skin on the shell can come off during different times of the year. Like lizards! The skin then grows back.

Let’s Breathe

Turtles are not able to breathe like we humans do. Humans just breathe in air from our mouth and nose. With the shell on their back the turtles are able to breathe in a different way. There are two ways the turtles can breathe. One way is to pull air into their mouth. Once the air is in they then swirl it with the bottom of their mouth and then push it down into their lungs. The second way is to contract their stomach. Pushing their stomach in and out the air comes into their lungs. Land turtles breathing in two different ways are pretty cool!


The land turtle’s shells come in many different colors. Some turtles have brown, black or grey shells. But the coolest looking shells can have dots that are orange, red or yellow. Along with the colors there are also cool lines and shapes on the shells. These differences vary between the turtles. You never know when you will find a turtle with red all over it! Those turtles know how to put on a show.

Are they the real ninja turtles?

Of course turtles are! Even though the shell does not come off, the shell is still their shield. Using their shell to protect themselves is how they survive. Even though the shell is their backbone it is still pretty tough. How cool would it be to have your backbone and ribs shaped like a shield? Definitely cool!

By, Liz Fonseca


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