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Some animals use shells as a sort of refuge to protect themselves. Is there a particular verb for it? I am not sure if I ever heard of such a word, but there must be a word for it or at least a better way to say it than "take refuge in a shell", because it's too long-winded.

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You could use hide and still convey the same meaning.

M-W:

to conceal for shelter or protection. E.g. They hid him from the police.

So in your case, it would be Some animals hide in their shell

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Retreat is a possible option: Some animals retreat into their shells when in danger

an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable

-- M-W meaning 1.a

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