Wednesday, 27 February 2019
FUSED RIBS: TURTLES
Another unusual feature in turtles is their limb girdles (pectoral and pelvic) have come to lie 'within' their rib cage, a feature that allows some turtles to pull its limbs inside the shell for protection. Sea turtles didn't develop this behaviour (or ability) and do not retract into their shells like other turtles.
Turtle shells are different from the armoured “shells” we see on dinosaurs like the ankylosaurs. Turtles are covered by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield. It is fundamentally different from the armour seen on our other vertebrate pals. Turtle armour is made of dermal bone and endochondral bones of the vertebrae and rib cage.
Armadillos have armour formed by plates of dermal bone covered in relatively small, overlapping epidermal scales called "scutes," composed of bone with a covering of horn. In crocodiles, their exoskeletons form their armour. It is made of protective dermal and epidermal components that begin as rete Malpighii: a single layer of short, cylindrical cells that lose their nuclei over time as they transform into a horny layer.
Depending on the species and age of the turtle, turtles eat all kinds of food including seagrass, seaweed, crabs, jellyfish, and shrimp,. That tasty diet shows up in the composition of their armour as they have oodles of great nutrients to work with. The lovely example you see here is from the Oxford Museum collections.