Turtles being naturally protected by their shells, makes me wonder whether their coverings are sufficient to keep them safe from predators. Sea turtles are not born fighters, so I was thinking "What would happen if a shark attacked a turtle?" This leads us to our question, Can sharks eat sea turtles? How? I did some research and here's what I found out.
Yes, sharks are capable of eating turtles. A sea turtle's shell is softer than a land turtle's, making it easy for sharks and whales to break it during an attack. Furthermore, sea turtles can't fully retract their heads inside their shells like land turtles do, making them even more vulnerable. In such a rare occurrence that they survive an attack, they are very unlikely to survive since their heads are exposed.
More About Turtle Shells
The shells of turtles are primarily made of keratin. They are also constructed of the same element comprising the ribs, pelvis, and other bones found in most reptiles. Additionally, turtle shells, besides protecting their owners, are also useful for identification. Understanding the shell's structure lets experts know more about these species.
Parts of a Turtle Shell
This protective encasing is made up of three main parts - the carapace, plastron, and bridge. Carapace refers to the shell's upper part. On the other hand, the plastron pertains to the bottom part. Lastly, the bridge holds or fuses these two parts. 60 bones comprise the inner layer of a turtle's shell, including their backbone, ribs, and breastbone.
Do Turtles Leave Their Shells?
Contrary to the belief of others, turtles do not look for bigger shells as they grow bigger, the shells grow along with the turtle. Their shells also contain their backbone, which explains why they don't leave their shells. However, turtles do shed, but only parts of their shells periodically. This process happens in response to the turtle's body growing.
Hard Scutes for Shields
Turtle shells are comprised of hard scutes, also known as shields, that protect the shell itself. The scutes are composed of overlapping keratin, the same substance found in our fingernails, and the most abundant type of protein known today. Some species of turtles, such as softshell turtles, don't have scutes. Instead, their shells are protected by a thick layer of skin.
Turtle Shells were not Initially Intended for Protection
It may be obvious that their shells are there for protection, but a study proves otherwise. A certain study conducted by an international group of paleontologists suggests that the earliest-shelled fossil was initially there for underground burrowing, not for protection. Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science helped in making this discovery.
Sea Predators that Threaten Sea Turtles
Adult sea turtles have few predators, most of them are large sharks. Tiger sharks are one of the known specific breeds to pursue sea turtles. In some instances, killer whales also consider these turtles as prey. Unfortunately, the jaws of these predators are more than powerful enough to crush sea turtle shells, and they are very unlikely to survive.
Land Turtles Might Have a Better Survival Chance
As previously mentioned, sea turtle shells are softer than those of the land turtles, which gives land turtles an advantage. Even though some land predators lack the strength to break turtle shells, some are clever enough to think of a workaround. For example, the eagle is not strong enough to break the turtle's shell, so it may soar so a great height, drop the turtle, and smashing the shell into pieces. After this, it may now devour it's prey easily.
Since turtles are protected by their durable shells, it makes us wonder if that protection is enough to keep them safe against predators such as a shark. Unfortunately, sea turtle shells are softer than land turtle shells, additionally considering the immense power of shark bites, sea turtles are very unlikely to get out of such a situation alive. It would be best for them to stay away from these predators.