Wednesday, September 11, 2013
My Cousin: The Diamondback Terrapin
The Diamondback Terrapin can be found in brackish waters from Cape Cod to Texas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, including the Floriday Keys.
Named for the diamond patterns on its top shell, with scutes that bear deep, diamond-shaped growth rings. The top shell is light brown, gray, or black; the bottom shell ranges from yellow to olive. Black spots and wiggly marks, in a pattern unique to each turtle, appear on the reptile's whitish skin. The shell size of the male averages 5 inches. The female is larger than the male, with shell size averaging 7.5 inches.
In the summer, they move from marsh creeks onto beaches and dunes to lay their pinkish-white eggs in 6-inch-deep nests in the sand. After 60 - 120 days, the inch-long hatchlings emerge from the nest and enter the nearest water.
While the diamondback terrapin eats snails, clams, crabs, and some marsh plants, the reptile's population was decimated in the 1700s and 1800s because its meat was considered such a delicacy - the chief ingredient in terrapin soup. While protective legislation is now in place, the terrapin's population has a long way to go to rebound from previous overharvesting.
Posted by Henry H. Turtle