Turtles’ shells peel, and the question “why” arises. Is it typical? Turtles indeed do shed their shells, which are also known as scutes.
Turtles have about 60 bones in their shell. A thin layer of skin covers the hard outer shell, aiding in its development.
If you’ve noticed your turtle shedding its scutes, old pieces of scutes (hard layer) are likely being replaced by new ones. As the turtle matures, the epithelium will produce a larger scute than the previous one, allowing the shell to grow.
Almost all turtle species go through the same natural, typical process of peeling their shells. This article will quickly walk you through what to anticipate and how to tell whether your turtle’s shell is healthy or not.
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Why Do Turtles Shed Their Scutes?
As hatchlings, the turtles will grow normally with its shell until it reaches a juvenile state. From there the keratin layer will peel off in a thin layer as the turtles mature and become older. This is peeling in a nutshell, and it’s completely normal for a turtle.
There are indeed times when a turtle shell peeling could indicate a bad thing like health or caring issues.
The most common reason for a turtle’s shell to peel is through a natural way, but it can also be a defensive maneuver to try and fight off-shell rot or other turtle diseases.
Scute shedding is used to clean and clear a turtle’s shell of any blockage or infection.
Furthermore, a turtle’s shell will peel when it is hurt or damaged. Turtles’ shells can regenerate if a scute is harmed or lost of sorts. Finally, as a way to heal itself, a turtle sheds.
Here is a list of things that could also trigger a turtle shell to peel through an unnatural way:
- The basking area of the turtle has temperatures higher than it needs to be.
- The presence of fungal infection can also be a cause of turtle peeling.
- Overfeeding a turtle and getting it to grow too fast is the most common issue that owners can confront and with this also comes extra peeling.
- High ammonia levels in the turtle tank can cause the turtle to peel more often.
What Is A Scute On A Turtle?
Scutes are the turtle’s hard, plate-like shell scales. Scutes protect the bones and epithelium of the shell beneath them and have a similar chemical composition to fingernails keratin. The
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How Often Does A Turtle Shell Shed?
Depending on their species, age, and other factors, turtles will peel or shed their scutes at various times of the year. Some turtles never peel; in such cases, it is unusual for them to do so, as with common tortoise types.
Turtles begin to shed when they reach 4 inches in length (sexual maturity in most cases) and will lose their scutes every few months or so, as often as every two months or once every year or two.
Natural light, a more natural diet, as well as increased UV radiation are some of the reasons why wild turtles have an easier time shedding their scutes than captive ones.
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Things You Can Do When Turtle Sheel Is Shedding
Scutes that are shed will often lift on the edges as they become free from the shell.
They will not always come completely free, and air may get trapped underneath. This will cause a metallic, copper-colored tint underwater, which is natural.
If the scutes do not fall off in a reasonable amount of time (usually a week or so), you may want to assist the turtle in doing so.
Gentle pressure or a soft toothbrush brush should usually be enough. Don’t try to remove a scute that isn’t ready to be shed.
This might lead to harm, bleeding, and the removal of too much will leave the bone and delicate tissue susceptible to infection.
If your turtle’s shell isn’t coming off as it should, its diet is probably the culprit. Vitamin E deficiency is most often to blame when scutes fail to properly shed. Vitamin E levels in their diet need to be increased.
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How To Identify Healthy Turtle Shell Peeling
Your turtle’s shell will be discolored and have more frequent basking behavior if it is healthy. This is usually a sign that their scutes need to come off.
They may also rub their shells back and forth against the decor, which can feel “itchy” against objects in their enclosure. This is a fairly typical occurrence, and because the turtle’s shells contain nerve endings, they can feel them.
A healthy peeling turtle should not just be itching but should also be basking more frequently. If the scute begins to peel and come off while the turtle is basking, this is a good sign! When the turtle basks, the shell usually peels.
The drying process of wetting the shell and then drying under their basking spot will assist in lifting the scutes. This is completely natural and safe for the turtle.
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Types Of Turtles That Peel Their Shells
There are lots of turtles that shed their shells but we will mostly list the most common and popular types of turtles:
- Red-eared sliders
- Yellow-bellied slider
- Painted turtle (all 4 sub-species)
- Diamondback terrapins
- Map turtles
- Musk turtles
- Mud turtles
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Turtle Skin Shedding
Turtles do not shed their skin in the same manner as other reptiles. Their skin flakes off in tiny and fine amounts, making it difficult to observe them shedding.
Excessive shedding is when you see your turtle shedding with big clumps or strands of hair-like skin hanging from them. When a turtle sheds excessively, it’s usually due to over-feeding, excessively high water temperatures, poor water quality, a skin illness, or some other infection in the body.
Some turtles’ typical “shedding” behavior is to bite at their legs, peeling off and eating little layers of skin.
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Differences Between Shell Peeling and Shell Rot
The major distinction between a peeling shell and shell rot is the sort of peeling that takes place. The scute, in essence, is shed, and it comes off like a thin, little piece of plastic. Shell rot does not contribute to shedding in any way. Instead, shell rot will eat away at the shell and create divots and holes.
To understand the differences we need to understand shell rot better and how to spot it. There are two forms of shell rot:
Wet form shell rot
Bacteria or a fungus are usually to blame for a wet-form shell rot. This is generally the consequence of a crack, break, cut, or other forms of a lesion in the shell that has become infected.
The typical source of an infection caused by a fungus is if the turtle isn’t able to completely dry out. It’s usually white and/or yellow, smells terrible, and feels mushy when it’s not treated correctly.
If left untreated, it may quickly develop into septicemia.
Dry form shell rot
Dry form shell rot is the most common type of shell rot. It is caused by water quality and injuries, but can also be caused by things like scratches from climbing on or swimming in the water, or burns from heaters.
The most common symptom of dry-form shell rot is white spots on the shell.
Mineral Deposit Buildup
Shell Rot and bacterial growth are two disorders that may be mistaken with the mineral deposit condition. It’s tough to tell the difference between the two, but there are a few methods you can try. The only way to be certain is to have the problem examined for any organic material present.
If the water in which a turtle life is rich in minerals, the scutes on its shell will become transparent. If the shell has a whitish to off-white covering or glazing over it, mineral deposits are present.
There should be no pitting on the shell; however, if there is, this can indicate a bacterial infection.
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My Red-Eared Slider’s Shell Peels, Is It Normal?
Yes, red-eared sliders are one of the most prevalent turtle species to have their shells peel. Females in particular will develop rather big and ultimately shed their scutes.
The scutes should peel off if properly cared for, but they may flake off as flaky pieces that peel when they bask if neglected. Their shells will grow over time and they’ll shed scutes while doing so.
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Turtles shed their skin in small and thin amounts, making it difficult to see when they are shedding. When they do shed excessively, it is usually due to over-feeding, too high water temperatures, or poor water quality.
If you have a healthy peeling turtle that isn’t itching or basking more frequently than normal then your problem may be shell rot instead of a peel.
The only way to tell for sure is if the scutes on its shell will become transparent because of mineral deposits or if there is an infection from bacteria or fungus present.
Mineral deposit buildup can also cause confusion with this condition but should not affect the appearance of the scute itself which would appear opaque under these conditions.