What Is A Tortoise Shell Made Of

What Is A Tortoise Shell Made Of? The Composition Behind This Wonder

You might have noticed the housing behind the tortoise and wondered about its shell. It’s normal to be curious to know what it is made of. This article will help you to get rid of your curiosity!

So, what is a tortoise shell made of? The tortoise shell is made of two parts called Caraspace (top) and Plastorn (bottom). It has an exterior leathery skin that is made of scutes. The thing that works as a joint between the carapace and plastron is called a bridge. 

In this article, I will discuss the composition of tortoiseshell in more detail. Additionally, you will learn how tortoises have shells, the conservation, and trade of tortoise shells, etc. So, please read the whole article.

What Is A Tortoise Shell Made of?


The composition of a tortoiseshell is simple. And they cannot leave their shell. It’s made of two parts. Carapace and Plastron. Let’s take a look at the composition of a tortoiseshell in detail: 

What Is A Tortoise Shell Made of


The carapace is the back part of the tortoise. This part is made of ribs and broads. The interior portion of the carapace connects the backbone with the ribs and broads. It means their spine and outer part are connected and can’t get apart. 

So, now you know why I told you previously that they cannot leave their shell. The carapace is not just a shell. Besides having many benefits of a carapace for the tortoise, it works as a protector, which saves the tortoise from predators. 


The scutes work as a cover for the tortoise shell. It is a leathery skin that is made of keratin. The keratin has rich amino acids inside it. It also works as a protector of the carapace. But the scutes color in the carapace side and the plastron side have different colors. 

The carapace side has bold color scutes and the plastron side has no mottling like the carapace side.

What Is A Tortoise Shell Made of


The plastron is the bottom side of the tortoise shell. But how this part of the shell is made is still unknown. People have made their theory about the plastron. Many believe that the sternum of the tortoise has developed it. But this theory is not a proven fact.

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The Bridge Of Tortoise Shell

The tortoise shell’s bridge makes a joint between the carapace and the plastron. It is said that the bridge of the tortoise shell is also made from fused ribs. The bridge of the tortoiseshell has a few benefits. It protects the shell of the tortoise and keeps both parts combined.

The Conservation And Trade Of Tortoise Shell

Understanding the trade of tortoise shells helps us know the effect of trade on the world’s tortoise population. In ancient times, the demand for tortoiseshell was too much. 

People used to make combs, brushes, and ornaments with the shell of tortoises. As the trade of tortoise shells was successful, the hawkbills were a significant threat. 

Tortoise Shell

Many hawkbills were killed to take the tortoise shell and make different things with it. In the 20th century, Japan was introduced as the world’s largest market for tortoise shells.

But later, the trade of tortoiseshell was banned. But Japan kept importing the tortoiseshell due to the demand of customers. Later, the county also stopped its trading. Still, some people trade tortoise shells illegally. But the trade of the tortoise shell is comparatively reduced a lot now.

How To Recognize Original Tortoise Shell?

How To Recognize Original Tortoise Shell

Many shopkeepers sell tortoiseshell items in their shops. As many people like it, copies of the tortoiseshell are made massively. The original tortoise shell is costly. Many people buy copies who can’t afford it. However, if you are finding original tortoiseshell, you can do it in the following ways –

  • Look if there is any scratch on the tortoiseshell and see if the layers are peeling off
  • You will see a ring-shaped pattern in the tortoiseshell
  • The color of the original tortoise shell blebs through each other. In this case, the imitations of tortoiseshell are different. You can notice by seeing the separate droplets in the tortoiseshell
  • Expose the tortoiseshell to light and see if it is hazing. If it does, it is man-made
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How Tortoise Have Shell?

You may wonder how the tortoise got their shell. This thing still needs to be cleared. But there are many theories regarding this topic. Look at the below points to know both theories about the tortoiseshell-

How Tortoise Have Shell

1st theory

Earlier, people thought that tortoises had scutes on their backs naturally. Later the scutes grow and make the bigger shell on their back. Then the scutes made a joint with their bones. That’s how tortoise developed their shell.

2nd theory

The second theory was that the old tortoises had ribs that used to extend and grow bigger. And the ribs made a joint with the bones of the tortoise. This way, they had a giant shell on their back.


Here are some common questions asked by the audiences. Check them out below-

Q. Can Tortoises Feel Pain In Their Shell?

Yes. If the tortoiseshell is scratched or injured, they will feel the pain in their shell. 

Q.  Is A Tortoise Shell Man Made Or Natural?

The tortoise shell is natural. But due to its huge demand, people have made its imitations.

Q. Is The Tortoise Shell A Rib?

The top side of the tortoiseshell is a big rib combined with several ribs.


Till today, many of you have wondered about the tortoise shell. You might have wondered how they even got their shell. It takes no guess that this article has made it clear to you. A lot of people love the tortoise shell. Many people even like to have tortoiseshell items in their houses.

Plus, many shopkeepers sell the tortoiseshell in their shops. However, if you wonder next time what is a tortoiseshell made of, you can refer to this article.

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