Turtles are defined, protected, described, and hunted for their shells. We’re going to explore some interesting facts about tortoise shells as we look at the biology of tortoises, including their evolution and how they’ve come to capture much of our curiosity with their slow but long-lived lifestyle. Many people looking for a tortoise for sale would be surprised to learn how unique they really are.
Tortoises are found on most continents, including North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as parts of Indonesia, Madagascar, and the Galapagos. They have evolved to live on scattered rocky islands in the middle of the ocean, lush jungles in the Amazon, deserts in Africa, and the cold steppes of Russia. All this while carrying large, heavy domed shells made of bone on their backs. Some tortoises feed on vegetation and grasses, while others feed on fruit and carrion. Some tortoises will even chase small insects and snails as part of their varied diet.
The most obvious part of a tortoise is its large, domed and usually brightly colored shell. The tortoise shell is a group of bones that come together at visible sutures known as scutes. These bones make up the upper and lower half of the shell known as the carapace and plastron. The shell is connected to the turtle’s ribcage and spine and serves to protect these slow-moving animals from predators and the elements. This very device used for protection is what has caused many tortoises to disappear, as humans hunt and kill them for their shells.
Many years ago, sailors passing through the Galapagos Islands caused the extinction of some species of giant tortoises by collecting them for food. The turtles were easy to catch and load onto a ship where they lasted for months and provided fresh meat for sailors at sea. At the same time, tortoises from Asia and India were hunted down and slaughtered for their beautiful shells to make combs, eyeglass frames, and other fancy ornaments. The use of plastics did much to curb this destruction of turtles, as did the enactment of numerous protective laws designed to stop the eradication of turtle species. Today, the term tortoise shell is used to describe a mixture of black, brown, and yellow colors commonly seen in radiated and star tortoises.
These beautiful, long-lived creatures can spend their entire lives in the same small area or travel long distances in search of food, mates, and territory to make their own. Captive tortoises quickly become a part of the home with their endearing personalities and endless curiosity. You should always do your research first if you are thinking of purchasing a turtle for sale.