Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Cousin: The Australian Snake Neck Turtle

The Australian Snake-necked Turtle is typically found in swamps, lakes, slow moving waterways, creeks and billabongs in southeastern and eastern Australia. This species may migrate overland during the summer months (December to February in Australia) and they are often found wandering on overcast days during this time.

The carapace may reach up to 12 inches in length. These are the most commonly kept turtle in eastern Australia; it is generally shy but wil adapt quickly into captivity and is the easiest of all Australian species to maintain. Newly captured specimens will musk, emitting a strong smelling liquid as a means of defense. This, however, ceases as they settle into captivity.

Their diet in the wild includes frogs, tadpoles, small fish and crustaceans. In captivity they will feed on vitamin supplemented raw meat, small mice, fish, and dry puppy chow. They will also even accept canned dog food.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Jumbo Snapper

Check out this giant alligator snapper turtle that Coyote Peterson discovers in Florida:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My Cousin: The Leatherback Sea Turtle

Leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth, growing up to seven feet  long and exceeding 2,000 pounds. These reptilian relics are the only remaining representatives of a family of turtles that traces its evolutionary roots back more than 100 million years. Once prevalent in every ocean except the Arctic and Antarctic, the leatherback population is rapidly declining in many parts of the world.
While all other sea turtles have hard, bony shells, the inky-blue carapace of the leatherback is somewhat flexible and almost rubbery to the touch. Ridges along the carapace help give it a more hydrodynamic structure. Leatherbacks can dive to depths of 4,200 feet — deeper than any other turtle—and can stay down for up to 85 minutes.

Unlike their reptilian relatives, leatherbacks are able to maintain warm body temperatures in cold water by using a unique set of adaptations that allows them to both generate and retain body heat. These adaptations include large body size, changes in swimming activity and blood flow, and a thick layer of fat.

Leatherbacks undertake the longest migrations between breeding and feeding areas of any sea turtle, averaging 3,700 miles each way. After mating at sea, females come ashore during the breeding season to nest. The nighttime ritual involves excavating a hole in the sand, depositing around 80 eggs, filling the nest, leaving a large, disturbed area of sand that makes detection by predators difficult, and finally returning to the sea.

 It is estimated that only about one in a thousand leatherback hatchlings survive to adulthood. Eggs are often taken by humans from nests to be consumed for subsistence or as aphrodisiacs. Many leatherbacks fall victim to fishing lines and nets, or are struck by boats. Leatherbacks also can die if they ingest floating plastic debris mistaken for their favorite food: jellyfish.

Leatherbacks are currently designated as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The number of leatherbacks in the Atlantic appears to be stable or increasing, but the Pacific population is declining at an alarming rate due to egg harvest, fishery bycatch, coastal development, and highly variable food availability. Some Pacific populations have disappeared entirely from certain areas, such as Malaysia.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Cousin: The Speckled Cape Tortoise

The Speckled Cape Tortoise, known locally as the speckled padloper, and internationally as the speckled cape tortoise, is the world's smallest tortoise. A member of the genus Homopus, it is endemic to South Africa and Southern Namibia.

Naturally restricted to a small area in Little Namaqualand, an arid region in the west of South Africa, here it normally lives on rocky outcrops, where it forages among the rocks for the tiny succulent plants it eats.

Males measure 2.5 to 3 inches, while the larger females measure up to almost 4 inches; they weigh about 3.5 – 6 oz. This species has a flattened shell with slightly serrated edges. The orange-brown shell is covered in hundreds of black spots. The males have a noticeably concave belly.

This tiny tortoise can be distinguished from the other Homopus species by its speckles, and by five toes on its forefeet, unlike many of its relatives, which have four toes, on all four feet.

The species is threatened by traffic on roads, habitat destruction and poaching for the pet trade. Many are taken from their natural habitat each year, and nearly all subsequently die as a result, as they do not readily adapt to typical captive diets and climatic change.

However,  their diet (while very varied) is not highly specialized, which would allow the species to adapt well to captivity, provided that proper attention is paid to temperature, dryness and a sufficiently varied diet.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Giant Leatherback Goes Home

The videos show her going from her nest until she disappears into the Atlantic Ocean on Crescent Beach, Florida. The leatherback is the largest, deepest diving, and most migratory and wide ranging of all sea turtles. The adult leatherback can reach 4 to 8 feet in length and 500 to 2000 pounds in weight.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Conservationist Killed Protecting Leatherback Eggs

A sad story indeed. Jairo Mora Sandoval, a 26-year-old Costa Rican conservationist, was killed protecting the eggs of endangered leatherbacks by poachers who sell the eggs as aphrodisiacs. Read the entire story here to understand the importance of preservation of this endangered species.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Saving Sea Turtles

Thank you, North Carolina Sea Turtle Hospital and National Geographic!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Glowing Turtles Discovered

Sept 28, 2015: National Geographic's David Gruber discovers a biofluorescent sea turtle near the Solomon Islands. The critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle is the first reptile scientists have seen exhibiting biofluorescence — the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different color. The most common colors are green, red, and orange.  To watch the video click here.

Biofluorescence is different from bioluminescence, in which animals, fish and corals either produce their own light through a series of chemical reactions, or host bacteria that give off light.But researchers never expected to find it in a marine reptile.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Cousin: The Eastern Box Turtle

The Eastern Box Turtle is a subspecies of one of two species of box turtles found in the United States. It is the only "land turtle" found in North Carolina, where it is the state reptile. Box turtles are slow crawlers, extremely long lived, slow to mature, and have relatively few offspring per year.

Eastern Box turtles have a high, dome-like carapace and a hinged plastron that allows total shell closure. The carapace can be of variable coloration, but is normally found brownish or black and is accompanied by a yellowish or orangish radiating pattern of lines, spots or blotches. Skin coloration, like that of the shell, is variable, but is usually brown or black with some yellow, orange, red, or white spots or streaks.

Males normally possess red eyes (irises) whereas females usually display brown eyes. Eastern box turtles feature a sharp, horned beak, stout limbs, and their feet are webbed only at the base. Eastern box turtles have 5 toes on each front leg, and normally 4 toes on each hind leg, although some individuals may possess 3 toes on each hind leg. Staying small in size, most range from 4.5 to 6 inches, but occasionally reach over 7 inches. In the wild, box turtles are known to live over 100 years, but in captivity, often live much shorter lives.

When injured or damaged, the shell has the capacity to regenerate and reform. Granular tissue slowly forms and keratin slowly grows underneath the damaged area to replace damaged and missing scutes.

The Eastern Box turtle is found mainly in the eastern United States, as is implied by its name. They occur as far north as southern Maine and the southern and eastern portions of the Michigan Upper Peninsula, south to southern Florida and west to eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. In the northern parts of their range, they are rarely found above 1,000 feet in elevation.

Eastern box turtles prefer deciduous or mixed forested regions, with a moderately moist forest floor that has good drainage. Bottomland forest is preferred over hillsides and ridges. They can also be found in open grasslands, pastures, or under fallen logs or in moist ground, usually moist leaves or wet dirt. They have also been known to take "baths" in shallow streams and ponds or puddles, and during hot periods may submerge in mud for days at a time.

In the wild, eastern box turtles are opportunistic omnivores and will feed on a variety of animal and vegetable matter. There are a variety of foods which are universally accepted by eastern box turtles, which include earthworms, snails, slugs, grubs, beetles, caterpillars, grasses, fallen fruit, berries, mushrooms, flowers, bread, duck weed, and carrion.

Thousands of box turtles are collected from the wild every year for the domestic pet trade, primarily from South Carolina, the only remaining state where they can legally be captured from the wild and sold for profit. Captive turtles may have a life span as short as three days if they aren't fed, watered, and held in a proper container. The vivid shell color found in many eastern box turtles often fades when a turtle is brought into captivity.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Cousin: Hermann's Tortoise

The Hermann's Tortoise rugged lifestyle and small adult size have made them one of the most popular reptile pets in the United States. These tortoises originate in the grasslands and various terrain surrounding the Mediterranean Ocean, and thrive in similar dry and moderate conditions. These tortoises will cheerfully excavate their own burrow if a suitable hide is not provided for them and will eat a variety of grasses and leafy vegetables you can plant outside. These tortoises are exceptionally hardy, and will thrive for many decades with good care.

Female Hermann's tortoises are typically larger than males once mature. However, even the largest female specimens rarely exceed 8 inches in length, making them easy to accommodate, regardless of gender. Nobody knows for certain how long a captive-born Hermann's tortoise can live. However, based on the longevity of animals acquired as adults, and that of similar species, life spans exceeding 50 years can be expected.

Tortoises are active animals, and should be provided with as much space as possible. Even when provided with a spacious enclosure, the use of an outdoor pen is recommended during the warmer months. These pens should be secure to prevent escapes. Tortoises housed outdoors, even if for only a few hours a day, will benefit greatly from the fresh air, natural sunlight, and opportunity to graze.

Hermann's Tortoises are primarily herbivores in the wild, and a similar diet should be provided in captivity. The bulk of their diet should consist of a variety of dark, leafy, greens. Romaine lettuce, collard greens, carrot tops, kale, mustard greens, and beet greens are all excellent choices.

In addition to these staples, other veggies such as carrots, squash, and bell peppers can be offered to add variety. Fruits such as figs, apple, bananas, and strawberries can be fed occasionally as treats, but these foods should make up no more than 10% of the animals diet.

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Cousin: Yellow-Blotched Map Turtle

The Yellow-Blotched Map Turtle, or yellow-blotched sawback, is a species of turtle in the Emydidae family. It is part of the narrow-headed group of map turtles. It is endemic to the southern United States and is limited to the Pascagoula River of Mississippi and most of its tributaries.

Yellow-blotched map turtles are medium to small-sized turtles, with males ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 inches in carapace length as adults. Adult females are larger, about 5 to 7.5 inches in carapace length. The yellow-blotched map turtle has the highest central keel of all map turtles.

Yellow-blotched map turtles feed mostly on insects, but are opportunistic feeders and also consume crustaceans and fish they also eat some fresh greens.

This species is listed as Threatened under the US Endangered Species Act due to a recent decline. This can be attributed to a low reproductive frequency as compared with most other map turtles. A high level of nest mortality due to fish crow predation and river flooding are also attributed to endangerment.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

My Cousin: The Ringed Map Turtle

The Ringed Map Turtle is found in the Pearl River and its tributaries in Mississippi and Louisiana.  The Pearl River is a large river that can have very swift currents when the water is high.

This is a small to medium size turtle. Males are about 3.5 to 4.5 inches as adults and females are about 5 to 7.5 inches long.  This turtle is part of the narrow head group of map turtles and therefore is mostly an insect eater, but they are also opportunistic so crustaceans and fish could also be eaten.  It has the typical map turtle central keel that is exaggerated as a hatchling and slowly wears down with age, especially old females. However, of all the map turtle species, this group (the sawback group) has the highest central keel. It also has a small plastral pattern that consists of a few horizontal lines.

Like the other sawbacks, the Ringed Map inhabits a sandy, mud bottomed river.  It is associated with brush piles (trees that have died and fell into the river). It spends much of the day basking on these fallen trees and quickly jumps into the water when approached. They seek refuge on the bottom of the river and in between the branches of the falling trees.

This species is endangered in the state of Mississippi, and federally threatened

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

If you mother is still alive, go have a walk with her today.

My mama has a long road to haul beginning today!
Good luck out there, Mama!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

My Cousin: The Green Sea Turtle

The Green Sea Turtle is one of the two species of sea turtles usually seen in the El Nido province of the Phillipines (the hawksbill sea turtle is the other). It gets its name from the green color of its body fat – the body fat is green because it feeds on seagrass and seaweed as an adult. The green sea turtle is the only herbivorous sea turtle in adulthood. When diving, a green sea turtle can stay underwater for as long as 5 hours because its heart beats only once every nine minutes.

Adult green sea turtles can weigh between 135-160 kg and measure 1 meter long along the carapace (the top shell). If you spot a sea turtle while snorkeling or diving, you can tell it’s a green sea turtle based on it’s carapace: it’s smooth, oval-shaped, and brown or yellow-greenish in color. If you’re close enough to take a look at the head, a green sea turtle has a pair of prefrontal scales (scales on the top of the head before the eyes).

Female green sea turtles return to the beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs. They mature at 20-50 years old and return to their natal beaches every 2-4 years to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch after 60 days, with the hatchlings heading out to the open ocean where they hide and feed in floating seaweeds for several years. Once they reach a certain age or size range, they move to the coastal areas and start feeding on seagrass and seaweed. Because of their diet, green sea turtles generally stay in shallow, sheltered areas in reefs, bays, and inlets. Green sea turtles are distributed worldwide in tropical and subtropical coastal waters (between 30° North and 30° South).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Cousin: The Marginated Tortoise

The Marginated Tortoise is a unique looking tortoise because of its extremely flared marginal scutes from which it gets its name. The males’ marginal scutes are usually much more flared than on the female, appearing as a "brim" of sorts.

Wild caught specimens of this tortoise used to be a commonly imported tortoise but is now not imported at all as wild caught tortoises because it is protected throughout its range. Because of successful breeding in captivity it is now becoming more commonly available as captive born tortoises.

The Marginated Tortoise grows from 8 to 12 lbs and can live more than 20 years. They are found in the hilly and mountainous areas of the Southern Balkan Peninsula and Greece.

Marginated tortoises are very cold tolerant and should be maintained at a temperature range of 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit at the basking site. If temperatures fall below this they will be inclined to hibernate which they do in the wild when the seasons dictate it.

These tortoises are opportunistic feeders in that they will take the usual dark leafy greens, weeds and some grasses. They are not known to be very active grazers. Marginateds are also known to consume insects, snails and carrion. In captivity they can be fed dark leafy greens, fibrous fruits such as pears and apples in addition to various berries. The main idea is to feed as varied as possible. Clean fresh water in a water dish should be provided at all times.

One important note on breeding is that the marginated tortoise is one of the most aggressive tortoises when it comes to breeding. Aggressive ramming towards the female can be so severe that female marginateds have been killed in the process.