Turtles Use Their Shells As A Burrowing Tool Not For Protection

Posted: Jul 18 2016, 6:42am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Turtles Use Their Shells as a Burrowing Tool Not for Protection
This is an artistic rendering of the early proto turtle Eunotosaurus (foreground) burrowing into the banks of a dried up pond to escape the harsh arid environment present 260 million years ago in South Africa. Meanwhile, a herd of Bradysaurus (background) congregates around the remaining muddy water. Credit: Artwork by Andrey Atuchin
  • The Outer Shell of a Turtle is actually a Burrowing Tool

A curator of a museum has discovered the odd fact that the outer shell of a turtle is actually a burrowing tool. It was never meant to be a protective device.

Everybody supposes that the tough outer shell of a turtle is meant to protect it from the elements and predators. Yet such is hardly the case. Evolution gives us more subtle clues as to its real function. It served as a burrowing tool in the distant past.

Besides the turtle, no other living organism has developed such a tenacious and solid outer shell that offers it a hiding place to retreat to in times of danger and insecurity.

Initially though this selfsame shell was a tool for burrowing purposes. It was never meant for protection. A museum curator was one of the scientists who found this by sheer accident.

The exact origin of the turtle shell is an enigma. Yet it seems the scientists have cracked the code regarding this mystery today. Bird feathers too were never originally meant for flight.

The proto-turtles lived in South Africa in ancient times. They needed to burrow deep below the ground in order to escape the sultry sun and inhospitable environment. This they accomplished thanks to a tough outer shell.

The turtle shell had been one of those evolutionary mechanisms that had always bamboozled scientists into thinking that it was meant for protective purposes.

A widening of the ribcage was one of the first signs of such a shell being formed in case of the turtle. This change had an impact on the breathing rate and speed of turtles.

The ribcage not only helps in the expelling of air from the lungs but aids locomotion. The broadening of the ribcage allows for the animal to slow down in its pace.

This may be one of the reasons why there is commonly no variation in ribs. The ribcage bones are very normal and drab objects to study in the world of paleontology.

The ribs of diverse animals look about the same and there are hardly any differentiating markers between them. Turtles are the only exception to this rule. The 260 million year old predecessors of turtles were discovered and so a ton of data was unearthed along with their fossils.

When these remnants of the modern day turtle were found, they helped the museum curator and his team of researchers discover the essential facts regarding the shell of this animal. That was when the surprising fact came to light that the shell was originally meant as a burrowing device.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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