The first thing we need to know is what do turtle legs actually look like.
There are two types of leg in the animal kingdom; one type that moves up and down (called an “opisthopodous” or walking appendage), and another type that only moves forward (called a “prosoma”, meaning head).
The prosomia can be found on most animals’ bodies as their primary means for locomotion.
We call these limbs ‘legs’.
However, there are some exceptions such as salamanders which don’t use legs but rather move by using small movements from the tip of its tail.
A turtle’s legs are made up of many bones and joints attached together.
Each bone has several functions.
For example, the tibia acts as a shinbone and attaches into the ankle joint at the end where you would place your foot.
This allows it to bend backward when swimming or running away from danger.
Another important function is to support the weight of a heavy shell.
It also houses muscles, ligaments, connective tissue, blood vessels, nerves, etc.
A turtle uses all three pairs of legs equally so they each serve different purposes.
They may not walk around much since their shells keep them grounded and protect them from predators, but they still require proper functioning legs just like humans.
Now the question remains,
Does a turtle have ankles?
Yes! And no… well sorta depends on how you classify a turtle’s legs.
Turtle anatomists agree that turtles have “true” ankles.
True ankles consist of true joints that allow movement between both upper and lower leg sections.
These include the coxa-trochlea, fibula-tibia, and tarsometatarsus. In addition to this, turtles also have pseudojoints that attach either side of a limb to the sides of the carapace (the hard shell covering the back) without having true motion.
Some examples of pseudojoints are the supracoxal cartilage, intermedium suture, hyoid arch, and sternum/clavicle. Pseudojoints are very common in other vertebrates such as lizards and crocodiles and help stabilize the limbs while reducing mobility.
One major difference between pseudojoints and true joints is that true joints contain articular surfaces that form articulations whereas pseudojoints lack articular surfaces.
Articulation is defined as “Two or more parts forming a hinge.”
Therefore, because there aren’t articular surfaces within pseudojoints, they cannot articulate properly.
So now that we’ve covered everything about whether or not turtles really have ankles, let us explore the answer about having feet.
Turtles are reptiles after all, therefore, they should technically have feet right?
Do Any Turtles Have Feet?
While turtles do indeed possess four claws on each of their front flippers that resemble hands, they differ greatly from our own human hands.
Because turtles have been living underwater for millions of years, their digits were modified into webbed paws.
Webbing helps the turtle stay afloat and provides extra grip for swimming and climbing out of water.
Since the webbing was formed long before land mammals evolved, it doesn’t affect anything else about their physiology or appearance.
Most people think that since turtles live mostly on dry land, they must have solid legs instead of webbed ones.
Well guess again!
If you take a closer look at various species of turtles, you’ll notice that some of them have completely webbed legs that operate exactly like their front flipper pads.
Other species simply lose their toes over time due to wear and tear.
So yes, turtles could theoretically run across the ground with their entire fronts raised off the ground.
What happens is that they would drag themselves along behind with their backs hanging below the surface.
Their tails act as anchors keeping them afloat and they swim with their whole bodies above the surface.
With that being said, I personally believe that turtles should have feet since they are able to walk upright on land.
After all, they did evolve from dinosaurs right?
Do turtles have fingers?
Yes turtles have fingers!
Although it seems impossible, turtles have three separate finger structures on each hand.
Unlike lizards, turtles never fully retract their fingers like snakes do.
Instead, they just turn them inward slightly leaving the tips exposed.
All turtle digits have five phalanxes which are similar to knuckles.
At the base of each phalanx lies a large pad known as a chela.
Chelas absorb impact better than regular fingernails and are used for digging and crushing food items.
Most turtles have specialized chelae on their forelimbs, however, others have general purpose chelae on all of their arms.
On the hindlimb, turtles usually have a single claw shaped like a hook positioned directly under their shells.
Like the foreclaw, the chela on the rear limb can vary depending on the individual species.
Lastly, turtles have nails on their nails.
All in all this concludes that although turtles technically have feet, they probably wouldn’t mind losing them.
Also, contrary to popular belief, turtles have wrists and elbows so they are capable of flexion and extension.