Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Totally Turtles 1

This time of year at the museum, all of us start to get pretty excited about one of our most popular annual events:  "Reptiles Bizarre & Beautiful" runs this February 15-17, 2014.  So, I thought I'd focus on some of my favorite reptiles....turtles!  Turtles have been around for over 200 million years, and one of the features that have enabled turtles to be such good survivors is its hard shell--which is actually made up of fused rib bones.  When faced with danger from predators, most turtles can tuck the vulnerable parts of its body--head, feet, and tail--into it's shell.  Guests routinely see a variety of wild pond turtles in and around the pond behind the museum:
Often you can see them sunning themselves as they hang out on a log.  They do this to get warm, but also to expose their skin to the sun's ultraviolet light which helps get rid of skin parasites:
Did you notice the long claws of this turtle?  That's one way I can tell he's a boy.  Male pond turtles use their long "fingernails" to attract a female--they wiggle their long claws in front of a female's face as they swim around.
Did you know that turtles do not have any teeth?  They may be toothless, but don't let that fool you!  They have a beak that can deliver a powerful bite to catch their prey.  Take a look at our loggerhead sea turtle (in the wild they might eat shellfish, shrimp, squid, even jellyfish):
 ....and one of our snapping turtles (in the wild they mostly eat small fish, frogs, crayfish, even small mammals and birds):
...and a slider (a type of pond turtle--they might eat plant material but also small fish, insects, even tadpoles):
For aquatic turtles that do a lot of swimming, it's helpful to have built-in flippers like the loggerhead:
...or webbed feet, like the diamond-backed terrapin:
I hope you enjoyed learning more about turtles--I'll feature them again in the future.  More "off the beaten path" in two weeks....

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