The African spurred tortoise is the largest mainland tortoise, easily reaching 30 inches (76 centimeters) in length and well over 100 pounds (45 kilograms) in heft. Some males even reach 200 pounds (90 kilograms)! It is surpassed only by the island dweller tortoises from Aldabra and Galápagos.

Of all the animals with backbones, turtles are the only ones that also have a shell, made up of 59 to 61 bones covered by plates called scutes, which are made of keratin like our fingernails. The turtle cannot crawl out of it because the shell is permanently attached to the spine and the rib cage. The shell’s top is called the carapace, and the bottom is the plastron. Turtles can feel pressure and pain through their shells, just as you can feel pressure through your fingernails.

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