Diagram of a prawn, with the carapace highlighted in orange

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.



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

In crustaceans, the carapace is a part of the exoskeleton that covers the cephalothorax. It is particularly well developed in lobsters and crabs.

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.

Zooplankton within the phylum Crustacea also have a carapace. These include Cladocera, Ostracods, and Isopods, however Isopods only have a developed "cephalic shield" carapace covering the head.


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.

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.

An alternative term for the carapace of arachnids and their relatives, which avoids confusion with crustaceans, is prosomal dorsal shield.

Turtles and tortoises

The carapace is the dorsal (back) convex part of the shell structure of a turtle, consisting primarily of the animal's ribcage, dermal armor and scutes. See the main article on the turtle shell for detailed information.


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  • carapace — [ karapas ] n. f. • 1688; esp. carapacho 1 ♦ Organe dur, formé de téguments épaissis, qui protège le corps de certains animaux. ⇒ exosquelette. Carapace cornée, calcaire, chitineuse (⇒ bouclier, 1. test) . Carapace des tortues, des crustacés, de… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • carapace — CARAPÁCE, carapace, s.f. Înveliş osos, cornos sau calcaros care protejează corpul unor animale. – Din fr. carapace. Trimis de valeriu, 17.02.2005. Sursa: DEX 98  CARAPÁCE s. (anat.) ţest, (rar) capac, scafă, (reg.) troacă, (înv.) ţeastă.… …   Dicționar Român

  • carapace — 1836, from Fr. carapace tortoise shell (18c.), from Port. carapaça, of uncertain origin, perhaps somehow from L. capa (see CAPE (Cf. cape) (1)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Carapace — Car a*pace (k[a^]r [.a]*p[=a]s), n. [F.] (Zo[ o]l.) The thick shell or shield which covers the back of the tortoise, or turtle, the crab, and other crustaceous animals. [1913 Webster] || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • carapace — s.m. [dallo sp. carapacho (d origine incerta)]. (zool.) [copertura dorsale delle tartarughe e dei crostacei] ▶◀ corazza, piastra (ossea), scudo. ‖ guscio …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • carapace — ► NOUN ▪ the hard upper shell of a tortoise or crustacean. ORIGIN French, from Spanish carapacho …   English terms dictionary

  • carapace — [kar′ə pās΄] n. [Fr < Sp carapacho] the horny, protective covering over all or part of the back of certain animals, as the upper shell of the turtle, armadillo, crab, etc …   English World dictionary

  • carapace — ( ) [Baba, 2005]. Entire animal, right appendages omitted, dorsal view, based on Munida. [Baba, 2005] ( ) [Baba, 2005]. Carapace, spines, based on Munida. [Baba, 2005] Head Shield cuticular structure arising from posterior margin of cephalon,… …   Crustacea glossary

  • carapace — [[t]kæ̱rəpeɪs[/t]] carapaces 1) N COUNT A carapace is the protective shell on the back of some animals such as tortoises or crabs. [FORMAL] 2) N COUNT: usu with supp You can refer to an attitude that someone has in order to protect themselves as… …   English dictionary

  • Carapace — La carapace est une section dorsale d exosquelette. Tortues Sommaire 1 Voir aussi …   Wikipédia en Français

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