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Diagram of a prawn, with the carapace highlighted in red. Penaeus diagram carapace.png
Diagram of a prawn, with the carapace highlighted in red.

A carapace is a dorsal (upper) section of the exoskeleton or shell in a number of animal groups, including arthropods, such as crustaceans and arachnids, as well as vertebrates, such as turtles and tortoises. In turtles and tortoises, the underside is called the plastron.

Exoskeleton External skeleton of an organism

An exoskeleton is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton (endoskeleton) of, for example, a human. In usage, some of the larger kinds of exoskeletons are known as "shells". Examples of animals with exoskeletons include insects such as grasshoppers and cockroaches, and crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, as well as the shells of certain sponges and the various groups of shelled molluscs, including those of snails, clams, tusk shells, chitons and nautilus. Some animals, such as the tortoise, have both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton.

Arthropod Phylum of invertebrates

An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. Arthropods form the phylum Euarthropoda, which includes insects, arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. The term Arthropoda as originally proposed refers to a proposed grouping of Euarthropods and the phylum Onychophora.

Crustacean subphylum of arthropods

Crustaceans form a large, diverse arthropod taxon which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimps, prawns, krill, woodlice, and barnacles. The crustacean group is usually treated as a class under subphylum Mandibulata and because of recent molecular studies it is now well accepted that the crustacean group is paraphyletic, and comprises all animals in the Pancrustacea clade other than hexapods. Some crustaceans are more closely related to insects and other hexapods than they are to certain other crustaceans.



The molted carapace of a lady crab from Long Beach, New York. Crab from Long Island.jpg
The molted carapace of a lady crab from Long Beach, New York.

In crustaceans, the carapace functions as a protective cover over the cephalothorax. Where it projects forward beyond the eyes, this projection is called a rostrum. The carapace is calcified to varying degrees in different crustaceans. [1]

Rostrum (anatomy) anatomical feature

In anatomy, the term rostrum is used for a number of phylogenetically unrelated structures in different groups of animals.

Calcification accumulation of calcium salts in a body tissue

Calcification is the accumulation of calcium salts in a body tissue. It normally occurs in the formation of bone, but calcium can be deposited abnormally in soft tissue, causing it to harden. Calcifications may be classified on whether there is mineral balance or not, and the location of the calcification. Calcification may also refer to the processes of normal mineral deposition in biological systems, such as the formation of stromatolites or mollusc shells.

Zooplankton within the phylum Crustacea also have a carapace. These include Cladocera, ostracods, and isopods, but isopods only have a developed "cephalic shield" carapace covering the head.

Zooplankton Heterotrophic protistan or metazoan members of the plankton ecosystem

Zooplankton are heterotrophic plankton. Plankton are organisms drifting in oceans, seas, and bodies of fresh water. The word zooplankton is derived from the Greek zoon (ζῴον), meaning "animal", and planktos (πλαγκτός), meaning "wanderer" or "drifter". Individual zooplankton are usually microscopic, but some are larger and visible to the naked eye.

Cladocera suborder of branchiopoda

The Cladocera are an order of small crustaceans commonly called water fleas. Over 650 species have been recognised so far, with many more undescribed. They first appeared in the Oligocene period, and have since invaded most freshwater habitats. Some have also adapted to a life in the ocean, the only members of Branchiopoda to do so, even if several anostracans live in hypersaline lakes. Most are 0.2–6.0 mm (0.01–0.24 in) long, with a down-turned head with a single median compound eye, and a carapace covering the apparently unsegmented thorax and abdomen. Most species show cyclical parthenogenesis, where asexual reproduction is occasionally supplemented by sexual reproduction, which produces resting eggs that allow the species to survive harsh conditions and disperse to distant habitats.

Ostracod class of crustaceans

Ostracods, or ostracodes, are a class of the Crustacea, sometimes known as seed shrimp. Some 70,000 species have been identified, grouped into several orders. They are small crustaceans, typically around 1 mm (0.039 in) in size, but varying from 0.2 to 30 mm in the case of Gigantocypris. Their bodies are flattened from side to side and protected by a bivalve-like, chitinous or calcareous valve or "shell". The hinge of the two valves is in the upper (dorsal) region of the body. Ostracods are grouped together based on gross morphology. While early work indicated the group may not be monophyletic; and early molecular phylogeny was ambiguous on this front, recent combined analyses of molecular and morphological data found support for monophyly in analyses with broadest taxon sampling


Diagram of an arachnid, with the carapace highlighted in purple Arachnid carapace.jpg
Diagram of an arachnid, with the carapace highlighted in purple

In arachnids, the carapace is formed by the fusion of prosomal tergites into a single plate which carries the eyes, ocularium, ozopores (a pair of openings of the scent gland of Opiliones) and diverse phaneres. [2]

Arachnid Class of arthropods

Arachnida is a class of joint-legged invertebrate animals (arthropods), in the subphylum Chelicerata. Spiders are the largest order in the class, which also includes scorpions, ticks, mites, harvestmen, and solifuges. In 2019, a molecular phylogenetic study also placed horseshoe crabs in Arachnida.

Ozopore opening of a defensive gland present in some arthropods

An ozopore is the opening of a defensive gland present in some arthropods, notably in millipedes of the order Polydesmida and in harvestmen, the eight-legged arachnids also known as "daddy long-legs". The glands themselves are known as ozadenes, also called "scent glands", "repugnatorial glands", "odoriferous glands" or "stink glands" by various authors. The name is derived from Ancient Greek ozo "smell" and Latin porus "pore, small opening".

Opiliones order of arachnids

The Opiliones are an order of arachnids colloquially known as harvestmen, harvesters, or daddy longlegs. As of April 2017, over 6,650 species of harvestmen have been discovered worldwide, although the total number of extant species may exceed 10,000. The order Opiliones includes five suborders: Cyphophthalmi, Eupnoi, Dyspnoi, Laniatores, and Tetrophthalmi, which were named in 2014.

In a few orders, such as Solifugae and Schizomida, the carapace may be subdivided. In Opiliones, some authors prefer to use the term carapace interchangeably with the term cephalothorax, which is incorrect usage, because carapace refers only to the dorsal part of the exoskeleton of the cephalothorax.

Solifugae order of animals in the class Arachnida

Solifugae is an order of animals in the class Arachnida known variously as camel spiders, wind scorpions, sun spiders, or solifuges. The order includes more than 1,000 described species in about 153 genera. Despite the common names, they are neither true scorpions nor true spiders. Much like a spider, the body of a solifugid has two tagmata: an opisthosoma (abdomen) behind the prosoma. At the front end, the prosoma bears two chelicerae that, in most species, are conspicuously large. The chelicerae serve as jaws and in many species also are used for stridulation. Unlike scorpions, solifugids do not have a third tagma that forms a "tail". Most species of Solifugae live in dry climates and feed opportunistically on ground-dwelling arthropods and other small animals. The largest species grow to a length of 12–15 cm (5–6 in), including legs. A number of urban legends exaggerate the size and speed of the Solifugae, and their potential danger to humans, which is negligible.

Schizomida order of arachnids

Schizomida is an order of arachnids, generally less than 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in length.

Alternative terms for the carapace of arachnids and their relatives, which avoids confusion with crustaceans, are prosomal dorsal shield and peltidium .

Turtles and tortoises

A Greek tortoise shell opened to show the skeleton from below Cmglee Horniman turtle carapace skeleton bottom.jpg
A Greek tortoise shell opened to show the skeleton from below

The carapace is the dorsal (back) convex part of the shell structure of a turtle, consisting primarily of the animal's rib cage, dermal armor, and scutes. [3] [4]

Related Research Articles

Branchiopoda class of crustaceans

Branchiopoda is a class of crustaceans. It comprises fairy shrimp, clam shrimp, Cladocera, Notostraca and the Devonian Lepidocaris. They are mostly small, freshwater animals that feed on plankton and detritus.

Chelicerae The mouthparts of spiders and crabs

The chelicerae are the mouthparts of the Chelicerata, an arthropod group that includes arachnids, horseshoe crabs, and sea spiders. Commonly referred to as "jaws", some chelicerae, such as those found in spiders, are hollow and contain venom glands, and are used to inject venom into prey or a (perceived) threat.

Malacostraca Largest class of crustaceans

Malacostraca is the largest of the six classes of crustaceans, containing about 40,000 living species, divided among 16 orders. Its members, the malacostracans, display a great diversity of body forms and include crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill, woodlice, amphipods, mantis shrimp and many other, less familiar animals. They are abundant in all marine environments and have colonised freshwater and terrestrial habitats. They are segmented animals, united by a common body plan comprising 20 body segments, and divided into a head, thorax, and abdomen.

Isopoda order of arthropods

Isopoda is an order of crustaceans that includes woodlice and their relatives. Isopods live in the sea, in fresh water, or on land. All have rigid, segmented exoskeletons, two pairs of antennae, seven pairs of jointed limbs on the thorax, and five pairs of branching appendages on the abdomen that are used in respiration. Females brood their young in a pouch under their thorax. Isopods have various feeding methods: some eat dead or decaying plant and animal matter, others are grazers, or filter feeders, a few are predators, and some are internal or external parasites, mostly of fishes. Aquatic species mostly live on the seabed or bottom of freshwater bodies of water, but some taxa can swim for a short distance. Terrestrial forms move around by crawling and tend to be found in cool, moist places. Some species are able to roll themselves into a ball as a defence mechanism or to conserve moisture. There are over 10,000 species of isopod worldwide, with around 4,500 species found in marine environments, mostly on the seabed, 500 species in fresh water, and another 5,000 species on land. The order is divided into eleven suborders. The fossil record of isopods dates back to the Carboniferous period, at least 300 million years ago, when isopods lived in shallow seas. The name Isopoda is derived from the Greek roots iso- and -pod.


A scute or scutum is a bony external plate or scale overlaid with horn, as on the shell of a turtle, the skin of crocodilians, and the feet of birds. The term is also used to describe the anterior portion of the mesonotum in insects as well as some arachnids.


The cephalothorax, also called prosoma in some groups, is a tagma of various arthropods, comprising the head and the thorax fused together, as distinct from the abdomen behind. The word cephalothorax is derived from the Greek words for head and thorax. This fusion of the head and thorax is seen in chelicerates and crustaceans; in other groups, such as the Hexapoda, the head remains free of the thorax. In horseshoe crabs and many crustaceans, a hard shell called the carapace covers the cephalothorax.

Decapod anatomy The entire structure of a decapod crustacean

The decapod crustacean, such as a crab, lobster, shrimp or prawn, is made up of 20 body segments grouped into two main body parts, the cephalothorax and the pleon (abdomen). Each segment may possess one pair of appendages, although in various groups these may be reduced or missing. They are, from head to tail:

Peracarida group of malacostracan crustaceans

The superorder Peracarida is a large group of malacostracan crustaceans, having members in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. They are chiefly defined by the presence of a brood pouch, or marsupium, formed from thin flattened plates (oostegites) borne on the basalmost segments of the legs. Peracarida is one of the largest crustacean taxa and includes about 12,000 species. Most members are less than 2 cm (0.8 in) in length, but the largest is probably the giant isopod which can reach 76 cm (30 in).

Eastern long-necked turtle species of reptile

The eastern long-necked turtle is an east Australian species of snake-necked turtle that inhabits a wide variety of water bodies and is an opportunistic feeder. It is a side-necked turtle (Pleurodire), meaning that it bends its head sideways into its shell rather than pulling it directly back.

Cumacea crustacean order

Cumacea is an order of small marine crustaceans of the superorder Peracarida, occasionally called hooded shrimp or comma shrimp. Their unique appearance and uniform body plan makes them easy to distinguish from other crustaceans. They live in soft-bottoms such as mud and sand, mostly in the marine environment. There are more than 1,500 species of cumaceans formally described. The species diversity of Cumacea increases with depth.

Spider anatomy

The anatomy of spiders includes many characteristics shared with other arachnids. These characteristics include bodies divided into two tagmata, eight jointed legs, no wings or antennae, the presence of chelicerae and pedipalps, simple eyes, and an exoskeleton, which is periodically shed.

<i>Triops longicaudatus</i> species of crustacean

Triops longicaudatus is a freshwater crustacean of the order Notostraca, resembling a miniature horseshoe crab. It is characterized by an elongated, segmented body, a flattened shield-like brownish carapace covering two thirds of the thorax, and two long filaments on the abdomen. Triops refers to its three eyes, and longicaudatus refers to the elongated tail structures. Triops longicaudatus is found in freshwater ponds and pools, often in places where few higher forms of life can exist. Like its relative Triops cancriformis, the longtail tadpole shrimp is considered a living fossil because its basic prehistoric morphology has changed little in the last 70 million years, exactly matching their ancient fossils. Triops longicaudatus is one of the oldest animal species still in existence.

Cultural depictions of turtles turtles depicted in culture

Turtles are frequently depicted in popular culture as easygoing, patient, and wise creatures. Due to their long lifespan, slow movement, sturdiness, and wrinkled appearance, they are an emblem of longevity and stability in many cultures around the world. Turtles are regularly incorporated into human culture, with painters, photographers, poets, songwriters, and sculptors using them as subjects. They have an important role in mythologies around the world, and are often implicated in creation myths regarding the origin of the Earth. Sea turtles are a charismatic megafauna and are used as symbols of the marine environment and environmentalism.

Opiliones anatomy

Opiliones are an order of arachnids and share many common characteristics with other arachnids. However, several differences separate harvestmen from other arachnid orders such as spiders. The bodies of opliones are divided into two tagmata : the abdomen (opisthosoma) and the cephalothorax (prosoma). Unlike spiders, the juncture between the abdomen and cephalothorax is often poorly defined. Harvestmen have chelicerae, pedipalps and four pairs of legs. Most harvestmen have two eyes, although there are eyeless species.

Turtle shell shield for the ventral and dorsal parts of turtles, tortoises and terrapins

The turtle shell is a highly complicated shield for the ventral and dorsal parts of turtles, tortoises and terrapins, completely enclosing all the vital organs of the turtle and in some cases even the head. It is constructed of modified bony elements such as the ribs, parts of the pelvis and other bones found in most reptiles. The bone of the shell consists of both skeletal and dermal bone, showing that the complete enclosure of the shell probably evolved by including dermal armor into the rib cage.

Crustacean larva crustacean larval and immature stages between hatching and adult form

Crustaceans may pass through a number of larval and immature stages between hatching from their eggs and reaching their adult form. Each of the stages is separated by a moult, in which the hard exoskeleton is shed to allow the animal to grow. The larvae of crustaceans often bear little resemblance to the adult, and there are still cases where it is not known what larvae will grow into what adults. This is especially true of crustaceans which live as benthic adults, more-so than where the larvae are planktonic, and thereby easily caught.

<i>Gastrosaccus spinifer</i> species of crustacean

Gastrosaccus spinifer is a shrimp-like crustacean in the order Mysida, the opossum shrimps, native to the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the coasts of Northern and Western Europe.


  1. Dean Pentcheff (ed.). "Carapace". Crustacea Glossary. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County . Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  2. Jan Beccaloni (2009). Arachnids. University of California Press. ISBN   978-0-520-26140-2.
  3. A. S. Romer (1956). Osteology of the Reptiles. University of Chicago Press.
  4. R. Zangerl (1969). "The turtle shell". In C. Gans, D. d'A. Bellairs & T. A. Parsons (ed.). Biology of the Reptilia. 1. London: Academic Press. pp. 311–340.