One of the most telltale features of a turtle is its protective shell, and regardless of the species, most turtle shells are discernably similar.
Despite what you might see on cartoons, a turtle’s shell isn’t removable. It’s quite literally a part of the turtle’s body, and it serves as the animal’s ribcage and backbone, all in one. Perhaps more intriguingly, turtles are one of the only land animals in the world in which the shoulder bones and hip bones reside within the ribcage, or in this case, the shell.
Turtles also use specialized muscles inside their shells to help them breathe. Unlike most land animals, the shell can’t expand and contract like a typical ribcage, and so turtles rely on these muscles to get the oxygen they need.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, turtles also use their shells to help them dig holes and to defend against predators. As it would seem, a turtle’s shell is quite the practical tool at times.