What is scutes?

The word has red underline when I type it on MS word which means that the dictionary in my MS Word doesn’t recognize the word, it also has red underline on wordpress when I copy-pasted what I have written on word to here…however, scutes really is a word.

According to freedictionary.com, scute is

A horny, chitinous, or bony external plate or scale, as on the shell of a turtle or the underside of a snake. Also called scutum.

Look at Kame’s picture to understand it better:

Carapce and scute

I do believe that every time someone draws a turtle, he/she always draws the small uneven boxes on its carapace, like this image:


But I am willing to bet that not everyone knows that those pattern is called scute. We Indonesian don’t have a name for scute, so every time I talk about it I have to explain it first.

According to turtlepuddle.org,

Turtles are reptiles whose protection comes from a shell. The shell is composed of hard, bone plates covered by scutes. The scutes are made of keratin, the primary substance in hair, nails and hooves of other animals. The pigment melanin, present in the scutes, may form intricate designs and brightly colored patterns in some species.

Although the scutes form the familiar outer layer of the shell, it is the bony layer underneath which actually provides the shape, support and protective qualities of the turtle shell. The inner layer of bone is fused with the usual bony structures associated with all vertebrates, the vertebral column and ribs.

These scutes will shed when the turtle is getting bigger. Snake changes its skin and turtle changes its scutes. When the scutes have shed, the new scutes usually have different color to the old ones, it either becomes brighter or darker.

My Kame had a much brighter new scutes when her old scutes shed.

I don’t know how it is with other turtles, but the turtles I have who had shed their scutes showed different shedding behaviour.

Kame shed her scutes beautifully. All of them shed one by one in a very nice shape, so nice that I ended up putting them all back together again, then I framed it and put it on my wall (It become my most priceless possession, one that even a mountain of gold can’t buy it of off me). I have shared it long time ago in a post called They Are on The Wall Now:


Sorry for the flash reflection on the glass

These are pictures of Kame’s perfect scutes (I posted it on my deviantart account years ago)


Layers of old scute



HOWEVER, my dear Kroten has different kind of shedding. She doesn’t shed her scutes nicely like Kame. All her shed scutes are not perfect. I know I will not be able to put Kroten’s scutes together like Kame but I still keep them all in a box.



Papoe also shed his scute few months ago (he hasn’t shed another scute ever since). His scute is so thin and small. I am still waiting for him to shed more bas he is getting bigger now

Kurome hasn’t shown any sign of shedding yet.

To let you know about scute and shedding, for the next there weeks, I am going to repost Kame’s old posts about her shedding process.

I hope you enjoy this bit of turtle fact 🙂

Warning: DO NOT pull off the scute!!

Let it pull off by themselves, if you force it, it can make the turtle stress.

To read previous Turtle Facts, you can click our page: Turtle Fact.

About Novroz

A working mother trying to find time to keep updating my blogs.

25 responses »

  1. niharika says:

    which age scute start shedding?
    is this normal?

  2. Great post 🙂 I knew what they were called. I think that is absolutely AMAZING how you were able to save all of those scutes to piece the shell back together. Never seen anything like that before. Awesome!

    • Novroz says:

      Thank you Ann 🙂 I made sure that I find all kame’s scute…I sort of monitoring her progress. You’ll see it in the next three weeks 😉

      It’s not a surprise that you know the name as you work with a vet 🙂

  3. OMD we never knew any of that 🙂 xxooxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  4. FleaByte says:

    How very cool! Almost like losing baby teeth, except turtles shed more than once? I love the framed scutes. 🙂

  5. Gizmo says:

    I love your framed scutes…that’s a beautiful keepsake…I actually learned the word a while back from doing crossword puzzles…it’s also useful in Scrabble 🙂

  6. Binky says:

    I didn’t know scutes were the proper name for a turtle’s scales before reading about it here quite a while back.

    I really like Kame’s framed scutes–which you also showed us a long time ago, but I’m glad to see it again. It’s a wonderful keepsake to have.

  7. Deb says:

    Very educational, Novia! 🙂

  8. snoopys@snoopysdogblog says:

    We had no clue about that, thanks for the information – Just love that picture of Kame’s scutes!

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

  9. Misaki says:

    That’s incredible, love that you’ve kept Kame’s Scutes 🙂

  10. Alice Audrey says:

    I didn’t know any of this until now. Not just the word scutes, but that turtles shed at all.

  11. tanvi says:

    Do turtles gt monthly cycles?

  12. morbid love says:

    I just got a turtle yesterday and I’ve been doing quite a bit of research. I read when a turtle is shedding you are not supposed to pull the scutes off, just let them come off naturally, correct? If so, you may want to edit in a warning about not pulling the scutes off as so people will not unintentionally harm their little friends. I have been reading a lot of your works on here and you are an amazing turtle mommy keep doing what you’re doing it’s helped me a lot and many others I’m sure!

    • Novroz says:

      Hi Leah 🙂

      Yes you are not allowed to pull off the scutes, it will make the turtle stress. I reread my post and I didn’t know I forgot to mention that. I will edit it soon. Thank you for pointing that out and for the compliment 🙂

  13. Paula Taylor says:

    I mistakenly was trying to clean my turtle’s shell and he got very upset, bit me, and the next day two scutes came off, but I’m wondering if I damaged the shell underneath because each of these scutes now is different colors, partially whitish and partially dark green. I hope I didn’t damage the shell?

  14. […] If you don’t know what shedding is you can read all about it here> Turtle Fact #9: Scutes. […]

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