AskDefine | Define carapace

Dictionary Definition

carapace n : hard outer covering or case of certain organisms such as arthropods and turtles [syn: shell, cuticle]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a hard protective covering of bone or chitin.



carapace m
  1. carapace

Extensive Definition

A carapace is a dorsal section of an exoskeleton or shell in a number of animal groups.


In crustaceans, the carapace is a part of the exoskeleton that covers the cephalothorax. It is particularly well developed in lobsters and crabs. It 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. Zooplankton within the phylum Crustacea also have a carapace. These include Cladocera, Copepods, Ostracods, Amphipods, and Isopods.


In arachnids, the carapace is formed by the fusion of prosomal (= of cephalothorax) tergites into a single plate which carries the eyes, ocularium, ozopores (a pair of openings of the scent gland of Opiliones) and diverse phaneres. In a few orders, such as Solifugae and Schizomida it may be subdivided. In Opiliones some authors prefer to use the term carapace interchangeably with cephalothorax, which is incorrect, because carapace refers only to the dorsal part of it.

Turtles and tortoises

The carapace is the dorsal, convex part of the shell structure of a turtle, consisting primarily of the animal's broad ribcage. The spine and ribs are fused to bony plates beneath the skin which interlock to form a hard shell. Exterior to the skin the shell is covered by scutes, horny plates which protect the shell from scrapes and bruises. Turtles can survive surprisingly severe injuries to the carapace, and even deep cracks or missing portions can fill in with bone and heal. The softshell turtles, pig-nose turtle and leatherback sea turtle lack scutes and the bony carapace is covered only by skin. The carapaces of many species of turtles are brightly colored and patterned and allow individuals to identify others of their species at a distance. The carapaces expand and grow outward like growth rings on a tree as the turtle or tortoise matures. The consistency of the carapace resembles hard keratin rather than bone. The plastron makes up the lower half of a turtle's shell.
carapace in Bulgarian: Карапакс
carapace in German: Carapax
carapace in Esperanto: Karapaco
carapace in French: Carapace
carapace in Italian: Carapace
carapace in Latin: Testa
carapace in Dutch: Carapax
carapace in Polish: Karapaks
carapace in Portuguese: Carapaça

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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