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Regenerative ability

During my excursions in different habitats, I repeatedly noticed turtles with flat, fused, often lightly mottled horn shields, which had evidently grown under the old horn shields that had partly fallen off. These new horn shields did not match the species-specific drawing elements in terms of pigmentation and markings. Although I assumed this was a burn injury, I did not investigate further.

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Testudo hermanni boettgeri with an overgrown burn injury. In the lower area there are still parts of the old edge shields with the original drawing elements. The newly formed horn shields have the shape of the old shields and, interestingly, also the old growth rings, but not their original drawing elements.

Testudo marginata with overgrown, new, very light horny shields. There are still superficial burn injuries on the edge shields in this area  recognizable. The lower third of the old horn shields are still present with the original drawing elements.

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It was only when I observed a turtle with dead bone shell in a Sardinian habitat in September 2006 that it occurred to me that a new shell with these fused, mottled-looking horn shields had formed under the dead and already slightly protruding shell bone plates. The old horn shields were still present in the front armored area.

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The animal mentioned in September 2006. A new bone armor with mottled horn shields that have grown together has formed. The dead bone armor has already been shed in the area of the marginal bone plates and partly in the front area. The remaining bone plates have burst open at the seams and are about to fall off. Only the edge cooking plates are still relatively tight.

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Back at home I looked through pictures from this habitat in my archive and actually found the same turtle, taken in May 2003.

As with most burn injuries, the abdominal armor is completely uninjured. The horny shields of the dorsal armor and the periosteum below are burned up to the edge shields, the anterior vertebral shield and the left anterior rib shield and the white bone armor, which is obviously already dead, is visible. The edge shields are already released in the rear area.

The turtle still makes a strong, healthy impression.

Having become curious through these further pictures, I went to the same area again in the spring of 2007 and found the turtle again in its usual roaming area. The old armor was now completely knocked off with the exception of a few marginal bone plates in the rear area and the newly grown mottled horn shields could be seen underneath. In the front area, some of the old marginal shields as well as about a third of the front vertebral shield and about half of the left anterior rib shield were recognizable.

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Obviously, in their natural environment, the turtles are able to regenerate even the most severe injuries and burns without outside help.

So far, I have not been aware of any scientific treatises on the regrowing bone carapace of turtles. I therefore assume that this phenomenon is generally still unknown and not explored. 

Aus diesem Grund habe ich im November 2022 in der SACALIA, Vereinszeitschrift der Internationalen Schildkrötenvereinigung, eine Abhandlung des sehr interessanten Themas veröffentlicht.

Klicken Sie auf das nebenstehende PDF.

Der Artikel unterliegt dem Urheberrecht und darf ohne schriftliche Genehmigung des Autors und des Verlages nicht reproduziert oder anderweitig veröffentlicht werden.

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