Have you ever been told to come out of your shell? People sometimes use this phrase to refer to kids who are shy. If you’re shy, sometimes you keep to yourself and don’t interact much with others.

Keeping to yourself is kind of like a turtle hiding inside its shell. Turtles feel safe inside their shells. Likewise, you might feel safe from the outside world when you keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself.

However, we believe most turtles would tell you — if they could talk — that you need to come out of your shell every once in a while. When you do, you encounter the world and meet new friends that make life more enjoyable. Let’s take a closer look at the turtle to see what the world is like for them when they peek out of their shells.

Turtles are reptiles that are known for the hard shell on their backs. The shell acts as a shield that helps turtles defend themselves from predators. When threatened, turtles will retreat into their shell for protection.

Turtles have been around for over 200 million years. This makes them one of the oldest reptile groups on Earth. Unfortunately, some species of turtles today are endangered.

Turtles can live on land or in water. Some of the largest turtles in the world are aquatic. For example, the largest turtle — the leatherback sea turtle — lives in water. It can grow to almost 7 feet long and weigh over 2,000 pounds!

The largest turtle in North America is the alligator snapping turtle. It can grow to almost three feet long and weigh as much as 250 pounds. That’s big, but it’s a far cry from the size of the leatherback sea turtle!

Did you know that the parts of a turtle’s shell have different names? The upper shell is called the carapace. The lower shell that covers the belly is called the plastron. The two pieces are joined together by pieces of bone called bridges.

Part of the inner layer of a turtle’s shell consists of bones that are part of the turtle’s backbone and ribs. That means the shell is an integrated part of the turtle’s body. If a turtle wanted to leave its shell, it couldn’t!

41 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (22 votes, avg. 4.59 out of 5)
    • Way to go, Wondergirl101!! The Wonder hints are really tough– we’re so glad you guessed correctly! WOHOO! Thanks for letting us know that you learned something new (we think it’s cool that the top and bottom shells are connected by “bridges”). We are getting hungry just thinking of your guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder! :)

  1. Cool! I love turtles! Great wonder!! Thanks!
    :) :D :( :P ;)
    P.S. I have tried origami, but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. :P Oh well!

    • Alright, we’re excited that Wonder Friend Bryleigh is enjoying our turtle Wonder! We learned so much today– like the different names for the top and bottom shells!

      Also, keep up the great work– origami is fun but challenging! :)

    • Thanks so much for your compliment, Mark! We are super excited that you enjoyed our Wonder video! WOHOO! Thanks for visiting, Wonder Friend! :)

  2. I loved that video!!! I watched it three times, it was so cute! I loved the article, too. Today’s wonder was really awesome. Thanks! :) ;)

    • We’re so happy that you enjoyed our Wonder, Berkleigh! Thanks for letting us know that our turtle Wonder was one that you liked! We think you’re an awesome Wonder Friend! :)

  3. I once saw 2 turtles, one on land and one on land and on water. The first one I saw was at a museum, it was the biggest turtle I had ever seen!! The second on was at an after school pre-k center, she’s small and already has 2 babes. And, like I’ve said, those are the ONLY turtles I ever saw. :-) :-) :-D :-D

    • WOW, that’s so cool, Carlos A! The museum you visited sounds liked an awesome place to Wonder! We hope you get so see more turtles in the future– even if they’re just online! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your love for sea turtles, Danielle! We’re so happy to hear that our turtle Wonder was one of your favorites! We LOVE learning something new with great Wonder Friends like you! :)

    • Oh no, Sheyla L! We hope you and your mom aren’t scratched any longer! We think it’s cool that you have a pet turtle! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today! :)

    • You’re right, Amara! Turtles are born with shells, but some people who used to be quiet or shy might be described as “coming out of their shells”. We Wonder what you learned from this Wonder?! :)

  4. Sharks and crabs killing turtles are mean.
    Turtles are cool and ssssssssssssssssssssssoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cute. :-)

    • We don’t like to hear about turtles as prey either, Rebecca! However, we learned about the food chain today which is a way of life for many animals! We think you’re a SUPER Wonder Friend who is a WONDERful animal lover! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Mackenzie! We think it’s awesome that you and Rebecca are thinking about animals, like turtles, that are often prey for sharks and crabs. Nice work! :)

  5. My research project is about TURTLES! Is it true that Jusus Rivas did the first experiment on an anaconda? That’s it from me PHOENIX!

    • How cool, Wonder Friend Phoenix! We are WONDERing if you can do some more research for your project about anacondas! Keep up the great work! :)

    • Oh no, we’re so sorry to hear that, Wonder Friend West! We are sorry about your pet turtle. We bet it was a great pet to have. :)

  6. I’m glad that turtles have their shell to protect themselves. Also I never thought about how turtles can’t leave their shell. That was a great wonder.

    • Great observations, Kyle! It’s kind of cool that turtles always have their homes with them, no matter where they go! Thanks for WONDERing about the slow-but-steady turtles with us today! :)

    • Hey Jack, you’re right– turtles ROCK! Thanks for sharing your comment after you checked out our Wonder! Keep up the great work! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • When should you come out of your shell?
  • What is the largest turtle?
  • What are the parts of a turtle’s shell called?

Wonder Gallery

TurtleVimeo Video

Try It Out

Have you come out of your shell yet? It’s OK if you’re shy. A lot of kids are shy when they’re young. That doesn’t mean you always have to be shy, though. If you’re ready to come out of your shell, here are some tips you can use to become less shy:

  • Role play with your friends and parents. If you get nervous in certain situations, such as when you’re at the doctor’s office or in a store, you can pretend you’re in those situations with your friends and family. Pretending can help you feel less nervous in those situations in the future.
  • Learn good body language. Practice making eye contact and smiling warmly. These simple things can help you feel more at ease in social situations.
  • Know how to start a conversation. A few simple phrases can make it easier to strike up a conversation with another child or a teacher. Try it out! You might be surprised what a simple, “Hi! How are you?” can do for you.
  • Invite a friend over to play. It can be easier for kids to develop friendships when they’re in a comfortable environment, such as their homes. Having friends come over to play can be a great start to what could be a lifelong friendship!

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ It’s Tough to Be a Leatherback Turtle lesson, children learn about leatherback turtles and the threats they are facing.

Wonder What’s Next?

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