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Do All Turtles Have Shells?

turtle, turtles, sea turtle, sea turtles, leatherback, reptile, shell, shells
Turtles all have shells, some just have them inside their skin, like this Eastern Pacific leatherback turtle. (Image credit: George L. Shillinger)

While most turtles sport a hard, protective shell on their backs, leatherback sea turtles have their bony protection embedded under their skin and oily flesh. Hence the name…

Most turtle shells are made of scutes, or hard, bony plates outside the turtle's skin, but the leatherback has mini-plates underneath its thick, leathery skin. It also have seven ridges that run along its back, underneath the skin.

These large sea turtles recently charted one of the longest migrations of any vertebrate animal, and can be found in every ocean of the world.

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Andrea Thompson
Andrea graduated from Georgia Tech with a B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in 2004 and a Master's in the same subject in 2006. She attended the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University and graduated with a Master of Arts in 2006.