May
27

Diamondback Terrapin Donations

Each nesting season, diamondback terrapins are killed or injured by motor vehicles on the Jekyll Island Causeway. The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin), North America’s only estuarine turtle species, inhabits the brackish waters of coastal salt marshes. Terrapins range from New England to the Gulf of Mexico, with the species currently listed in Georgia as a “Species of Concern.”

Diamondback Terrapin Conservation

CONSERVATION/EDUCATION
$50,000 Fund

DONATE TODAY

The diamondback terrapin is a species of turtle that lives in the marshes surrounding Jekyll Island.  This unique species has long been a part of the natural and cultural history of the region, but is now threatened by human activities in the marsh.  Each summer, dozens of female terrapins are hit by vehicles on the Jekyll Island Causeway as they cross the road in search of good nesting habitat.  Most of these injured turtles do not survive, and if this high road mortality continues, the local terrapin population may decline to a dangerously low size.

The GSTC and its conservation partners utilize many strategies to help protect Jekyll terrapins.

Read more about the Jekyll Island Foundation and their efforts to preserve and conserve our natural resources.

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May
11

Diamondback Terrapin Education

Education is a major component of diamondback terrapin conservation at the GSTC. Many different means are used to help spread the word about these unique turtles and how they’re threatened!
exhibits. The GSTC’s exhibit gallery is currently home to a mobile diamondback terrapin exhibit that provides visitors with information about terrapin life history, threats, and management efforts. It also features Cohen’s Crossing, an interactive video game that has players making management decisions to help nesting terrapins safely cross the road. In the rehabilitation pavilion, a marsh exhibit serves as the home for terrapin patients that have become permanent GSTC residents after suffering irreversible spinal injuries out on the causeway. This exhibit gives visitors a chance to view terrapins up-close, as well as allows them to witness the lasting effects that car-related injuries can have on these animals.CE_DBT2015 Flier

The pavilion also includes two terrapin hatchling exhibits, home to young terrapins being raised as part of the GSTC’s rear and release program. These babies are hatched from eggs collected from terrapin females hit-by-car on the causeway. They spend a full year at the GSTC before being released into the marsh around Jekyll Island!

Terrapins may come to the GSTC for rest and rehab, but they soon get put to work as conservation ambassadors. Injured terrapins quickly become educators as they show off their species while being examined in front of the GSTC’s treatment room window. These educational encounters are maximized as GSTC staff and volunteers explain treatments, as well answer guest questions about terrapin life history and threats. Some patients take their ambassador roles even further by participating in public and camp education programs. Check out this blog on Maura and Cabbage, two of the GSTC’s permanent resident terrapin ambassadors, to learn about all the great things these turtles do for their species!

programs and events. Terrapin conservation has become an integral part of many GSTC events and programs. Center visitors can learn all about these threatened turtles at “Totally Terrapins,” an educator-led program presented on summertime afternoons in the GSTC exhibit gallery.

Terrapin-themed talks and activities are included in the GSTC sea turtle camp curriculum, and terrapin activities are a part of GSTC special events like Shell-e-brate Earth Day.

From May to July, drivers on the Jekyll Island Causeway are greeted by signs alerting them to the potential presence of terrapins on the road. Beginning in 2013, additional signs equipped with flashing lights were installed in order to further warn drivers. These lights are timed to flash only during the times terrapins are most likely to nest, which is usually around a half an hour before high tide and up to two hours after high tide. Continuing research will hopefully demonstrate the effectiveness of these signs.

special events. The GSTC takes terrapin education to events around Jekyll Island and coastal Georgia! Educators and husbandry staff bring specimens, activities and sometimes even hatchlings from our rear and release program to share with visitors at Georgia DNR’s Coast Fest in the fall and Jekyll Island’s Turtle Crawl Triathalon and Nest Fest in the spring.

free public outreach. In the summer of 2013, free terrapin education programs were held at the Great Dunes Beach Deck Pavilion on Jekyll Island. Beachgoers who attended learned all about terrapin biology, threats, and conservation with the help of photos, specimens, and animal ambassadors from the GSTC.

May
11

Diamondback Terrapin Causeway Info

Turtles on the GO


 Drive with Care!

From May to July, drivers on the Jekyll Island Causeway are greeted by signs alerting them to the potential presence of terrapins on the road.

Signs equipped with flashing lights were installed to warn drivers of when turtles were most likely to be crossing the causeway.

These lights are timed to flash only during the times terrapins are most likely to nest, which is usually around a half an hour before high tide and up to two hours after high tide.

DBT Handout.2

CE_DBT2015 Flier

Feb
10

Diamondback Terrapin Research and Management

Rehabilitation  |  Education  |  Research and Management  |  Facts  |  Causeway Guide


causeway monitoring

During nesting season (May-July), the Jekyll Island Causeway is patrolled by GSTC staff and researchers from the University of Georgia for crossing diamondback terrapins. The data collected from this monitoring program provides valuable information that helps guide the management of Jekyll terrapins.

Any turtle found alive and uninjured is safely removed from the road. Researchers take measurements that provide data about the local nesting population, as well as provide information on growth over time for recaptured animals. Animals found for the first time are marked with notches in the margins of their shells. These notches are placed on different scutes (scales) as part of a code system in which each terrapin has a unique notch pattern. Terrapins found in previous seasons are identified by decoding this pattern. Researchers also make note of where the turtle was found on the road, which direction it was heading in, and whether or not it was carrying eggs. After all the data has been collected, captured terrapins are released alongside the causeway. Care is taken to ensure that animals are released in locations where they will be least likely to head back across the road.

When injured turtles are found on the road, they are transported to the GSTC for assessment and care. Researchers still collect information on where the terrapin was found, as well as the direction it was traveling in. At the GSTC, a variety of techniques are used to help rehabilitate these injured terrapins.

Researchers also collect terrapins that have been hit and killed on the road. Just like with live and injured turtles, the location and direction-of-travel are noted for deceased individuals if they can be accurately determined. Deceased terrapins are also checked for notches, as well as examined for the presence of eggs. All viable eggs are extracted for artificial incubation as part of the GSTC’s rear and release program (see below).

 

egg incubation

As terrapins cross the road on their way to and from nesting, many are hit while still carrying eggs. These eggs can be collected from deceased individuals through extraction, or from injured individuals by using oxytocin and other drugs to induce them to lay. Intact eggs are cleaned, weighed and measured, and then placed into one of the GSTC’s incubators. Not all eggs will be viable, and clutches are checked regularly for signs of mold or rot. Constant temperature and humidity help provide an ideal environment for development, and after about 45 days in the incubator many eggs will begin to hatch. Hatchlings remain in the incubator until they have completed the hatching process, meaning they have fully absorbed the yolk sac from their eggs. Healthy hatchlings are weighed and measured, and then are released into the marsh at different sites around the Jekyll Island Causeway.

 

rear and release program

Each year, several hatchlings remain at the GSTC for participation in our Rear and Release Program. These turtles live in educational exhibits located at the end of the public walkway in the rehabilitation pavilion. Proper feeding and care allow these turtles to safely develop and grow as they give visitors a chance to view them and learn about their species. After spending a year as animal ambassadors, these turtles are released into the marsh off the Jekyll Island Causeway. It is hoped that their advanced size and health will provide them with an improved chance of survival to adulthood.

Incubation and Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination

Like most reptiles, the temperature inside a terrapin nest will determine whether its eggs develop as males or as females. Warmer temperatures typically produce female turtles, and cooler temperatures typically produce male turtles. As road mortality removes mainly females from the population, the incubators at the GSTC are purposefully set to warmer temperatures in order to produce mainly female hatchlings. It is hoped that released hatchlings survive to maturity and help replace some of the nesting females hit each summer on the causeway.

 

road signs

Beginning in 2007, terrapin crossing signs were installed on the Jekyll Island Causeway to alert drivers about the potential presence of nesting terrapins on the road. These signs are only posted during nesting season (May-July), so as to encourage drivers who may utilize the causeway year-round to be extra vigilant when terrapins are active.

Beginning in the summer of 2013, traffic signs equipped with flashing lights were installed to provide further warning to drivers. These lighted signs are located in areas where causeway monitoring has revealed high numbers of crossing terrapins. The lights are timed to flash only during peak crossing times, which are a half hour before high tide and up to two hours afterward. Continuing research will hopefully demonstrate if these new signs effectively warn drivers.

 

nest mounds and boxes

Terrapins cross the causeway as they seek high, dry ground in which to nest. Nest mounds were created alongside the causeway in order to provide high, dry habitat that entices terrapin females to stop and nest before crossing the road. These mounds are covered by caged boxes that are designed to allow terrapins in but keep potential predators, such as raccoons, out. There are 12 nest mounds located at six locations on the causeway. In the summer of 2013, wildlife cameras were used to monitor how often terrapin females chose to lay their eggs in several of the nest boxes.

Check out this poster by former Diamondback Terrapin AmeriCorps Member, Dan Quinn, to learn more about incubator and nest mound research at the GSTC!

Feb
10

Diamondback Terrapin Education

Rehabilitation  |  Education  |  Research and Management  |  Facts  |  Causeway Guide


Education is a major component of diamondback terrapin conservation at the GSTC. Many different means are used to help spread the word about these unique turtles and how they’re threatened!

exhibits

DSC_8457IMG_2193The GSTC’s exhibit gallery is currently home to a mobile diamondback terrapin exhibit that provides visitors with information about terrapin life history, threats, and management efforts. It also features Cohen’s Crossing, an interactive video game that has players making management decisions to help nesting terrapins safely cross the road. In the rehabilitation pavilion, a marsh exhibit serves as the home for terrapin patients that have become permanent GSTC residents after suffering irreversible spinal injuries out on the causeway. This exhibit gives visitors a chance to view terrapins up-close, as well as allows them to witness the lasting effects that car-related injuries can have on these animals.

The pavilion also includes two terrapin hatchling exhibits, home to young terrapins being raised as part of the GSTC’s rear and release program. These babies are hatched from eggs collected from terrapin females hit-by-car on the causeway. They spend a full year at the GSTC before being released into the marsh around Jekyll Island!

 

animal ambassadors

DSC_5556Terrapins may come to the GSTC for rest and rehab, but they soon get put to work as conservation ambassadors. Injured terrapins quickly become educators as they show off their species while being examined in front of the GSTC’s treatment room window. These educational encounters are maximized as GSTC staff and volunteers explain treatments, as well answer guest questions about terrapin life history and threats. Some patients take their ambassador roles even further by participating in public and camp education programs. Check out this blog on Maura and Cabbage, two of the GSTC’s permanent resident terrapin ambassadors, to learn about all the great things these turtles do for their species!

 

programs and events

DSC_5745Terrapin conservation has become an integral part of many GSTC events and programs. Center visitors can learn all about these threatened turtles at “Totally Terrapins,” an educator-led program presented on summertime afternoons in the GSTC exhibit gallery.

Terrapin-themed talks and activities are included in the GSTC sea turtle camp curriculum, and terrapin activities are a part of GSTC special events like Shell-e-brate Earth Day.

 

road signs

P1050336From May to July, drivers on the Jekyll Island Causeway are greeted by signs alerting them to the potential presence of terrapins on the road. Beginning in 2013, additional signs equipped with flashing lights were installed in order to further warn drivers. These lights are timed to flash only during the times terrapins are most likely to nest, which is usually around a half an hour before high tide and up to two hours after high tide. Continuing research will hopefully demonstrate the effectiveness of these signs.

 

 

 

 

 

special events

TDSC_5270he GSTC takes terrapin education to events around Jekyll Island and coastal Georgia! Educators and husbandry staff bring specimens, activities and sometimes even hatchlings from our rear and release program to share with visitors at Georgia DNR’s Coast Fest in the fall and Jekyll Island’s Turtle Crawl Triathalon and Nest Fest in the spring.

 

 

 

free public outreach

IMGP0756 copyIn the summer of 2013, free terrapin education programs were held at the Great Dunes Beach Deck Pavilion on Jekyll Island. Beach patrons who attended learned all about terrapin biology, threats, and conservation with the help of photos, specimens, and animal ambassadors from the GSTC.

Feb
10

Diamondback Terrapin Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation  |  Education  |  Research and Management  |  Facts  |  Causeway Guide


Injured terrapins found on the Jekyll Island causeway and neighboring causeways are brought to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for rehabilitation. These patients arrive with all sorts of injuries, with shell fractures and scrapes being the most common ailments.

Many strategies and treatments are used to help these turtles recover from their car-strike injuries:

bone cement and rediheal

IMG_2550Bone cement is a quick-drying polymer that helps stabilize fractures and provide waterproofing for wounds. It can be mixed with antibiotics to help provide further protection against infection. RediHeal is a borate-based bioglass that is often packed into wounds before they are covered in bone cement. RediHeal speeds the healing process by promoting healthy blood flow to a wound and by providing a scaffolding for the development of healing tissue.

 

 

cable ties and garment hooks

IMG_2935For more severe shell fractures, more than just bone cement may be required to stabilize a wound. Cable ties and garment hooks can be epoxied to the shell to serve as supports for ties or suture material, which provide tension to help hold together unstable pieces of bone. This hardware is usually used in conjunction with bone cement and RediHeal in order to provide optimal healing conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

wound vac

Wound VACWounds that are particularly deep or extensive may be treated with Wound VAC therapy. Wound VAC therapy helps reduce recovery time in these injuries by providing an ideal environment for healing within those wounds. The Wound VAC device attaches to a patient via a long hose, which is sealed over a wound using a sponge and air-tight Tegaderm dressing. Suction from the device generates negative pressure that helps pull out infectious material, as well as stimulates healthy blood flood to the healing tissue.

 

antibiotics, pain management, and supportive care

Open wounds and fractures pose the threat of infection, so diamondback terrapin patients are often prescribed antibiotic therapy as they heal. Patients with serious injuries also receive drugs for pain management. Animals that do not eat while in rehab receive fluids for hydration. They may also be tube-fed an elemental gruel in order to provide proper nutrition for recovery.

 

physical therapy

SomDSC_5556etimes car-strike injuries leave terrapin patients with spine or nerve damage. These animals may not be able to use all of their legs properly, making it difficult for them to swim or dive. Physical therapy in the form of outside walks can help animals strengthen muscles and provide exercise for terrapins who cannot move around in deep water. These walks also provide a great opportunity to educate about diamondback terrapins, as many GSTC visitors stop to watch patients during their exercise time.

 

housing

DiamRadiology doubles as an ICU.ondback terrapins patients are housed in conditions designed to provide them with an optimal healing environment. Patients with fresh fractures are kept in a dry-dock until their injuries can be stabilized and waterproofed. They are next moved into a shallow, inclined tub that allows them to safely soak and bask. As terrapin patients improve, they are moved into larger, deeper tubs that allow them to swim and dive. Diamondback terrapins appear to experience less stress amongst other terrapins, so patients are often housed in groups. Regular filter cleanings and water changes maintain good water quality for healing injuries, and frequent temperature checks help ensure that these ectotherms maintain an ideal body temperature between 75 and 80 degrees fahrenheit.

 

diet

Diamondback terrapin patients that are able to spend time in water are offered food daily. Each turtle receives a mixture of seafood pieces (typically herring, mackerel, shrimp, and squid), as well as live fiddler crabs when available. This meaty diet helps provide these turtles with nutrition similar to what they might be eating in the marsh. Detailed records of how much and how often patients eat help veterinary staff determine the best course of treatment for those animals.

 

release!

TIMG_2917errapin patients that recover from their injuries are returned to the marsh near where they were found. Before release, each animal is notched and measured. The notches are made in the turtle’s shell and act as a code for identifying the animal should she be found again. Measurements help provide information on growth over time for recaptured animals. Some terrapin patients are released equipped with radio transmitters. Researchers track these animals to learn more about terrapin movements and habitat-use in the marsh!

Feb
10

Diamondback Terrapin Facts

 Rehabilitation  |  Education  |  Research and Management  |  Facts  |  Causeway Guide


What is a diamondback terrapin?

The diamondback terrapin is a kind of turtle that lives in the marsh. It is the only known turtle that spends the majority of its life in the marsh in the entire world! These turtles can be found in marshes along much of the eastern coast of North America, from Cape Cod to the Gulf of Mexico. They are uniquely adapted to live in brackish water, a mix of freshwater and seawater.

Site 12 Terrapins-13

What do diamondback terrapins look like?

Diamondback terrapin females grow to be 8 to 10 inches long and males grow to be 4 to 5 inches long. Terrapins have a moderately domed shell that is marked with a series of concentric rings. These turtles have webbed feet and claws to help with both swimming and walking. Their skin may be various shades of gray and can be marked with rings, spots, or be peppered in appearance.

Picture 183

What do diamondback terrapins eat?

Diamondback terrapins are carnivores and have hard grinding beaks for crushing their prey. Around Jekyll Island, terrapins eat primarily fiddler crabs and periwinkle snails.

031-Female DBT Eating a purpleback fiddler crab, Jekyll Causeway Creek

How can you tell the difference between a male and a female terrapin?

Diamondback terrapins exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning that males and females look different at maturity. For terrapins, this difference is in size. Terrapin females grow to be 8 to 10 inches long, whereas as males only grow to be 4-5 inches long. This makes females around 1.5 to 2 times bigger than males!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How do diamondback terrapins reproduce?

Diamondback terrapins reproduce by laying eggs in a nest. Nests are laid from May to July, in the high, dry ground above the high tide line in the marsh. Females lay between 4 and 14 small, oval-shaped eggs, which incubate for 65-75 days before hatching. During incubation, the temperature of the nest environment determines whether the eggs develop as males or as females. Warmer temperatures produce female turtles, and cooler temperatures produce male turtles. At the GSTC, we like to say that girls are hot and boys are cool!

 

How are diamondback terrapins threatened?

Throughout their range, terrapins face many threats. Coastal development and pollution reduce the amount and quality of marshland that terrapins can inhabit. Commercial and private crabbing also pose a threat to terrapins. These carnivorous turtles are attracted to crab bait and often get stuck after swimming into a crab trap. Turtles have lungs and must breathe air, so trapped terrapins can drown if caught in a trap for too long. Marshside roadways also threaten terrapin populations. Nesting terrapin females seek high, dry ground in order to lay their eggs, and often cross roadways as they seek out elevated habitat. In areas of high traffic, many of these nesting turtles may be hit and killed by vehicles. This is the biggest threat to terrapins around Jekyll Island; each summer dozens of terrapins are hit and killed on the Jekyll Island Causeway!

  DBT upside down on road Dead%20terrapins

What can you do to help diamondback terrapins?

There are a lot of ways to help protect diamondback terrapins! Support legislation and policies that protect marsh habitat from development. You can also help keep marshes clean by picking up trash, especially near waterways that eventually lead to the coast. To learn more about preventing marine debris, check out the GSTC’s marine debris initiatives page. If you’re a crabber, you can use TEDs (Terrapin Excluder Devices) to help ensure that turtles don’t get caught in your traps. When driving marshside roadways, be on the lookout for crossing turtles. Finally, help educate yourself and others!

 

Where can I learn more about diamondback terrapins?

You can learn more about terrapins by visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. There are also a lot of great online resources, such as the ones listed below:

Jul
3

Diamondback Terrapins

Rehabilitation  |  Education  |  Research and Management  |  Facts  |  Causeway Guide | Terrapin Donations


sticker2b

The diamondback terrapin is a species of turtle that lives in the marshes surrounding Jekyll Island. This unique species has long been a part of the natural and cultural history of the region, but is now threatened by human activities in the marsh. Each summer, dozens of female terrapins are hit by vehicles on the Jekyll Island Causeway as they cross the road in search of good nesting habitat. Most of these injured turtles do not survive, and if this high road mortality continues the local terrapin population may decline to a dangerously low size.


The GSTC and its conservation partners utilize many strategies to help protect Jekyll terrapins.

DONATE TODAY  


Rehabilitation

DSC_7860

Each summer, many nesting terrapin females end up in the GSTC’s hospital after getting hit by vehicles out on the Jekyll Island Causeway. Check out our Diamondback Terrapin Rehabilitation page to learn more about how these injured turtles are brought back to health.


Education

DSC_7357

Educating Jekyll visitors about diamondback terrapins is a crucial part of protecting the species. Take a look at our Diamondback Terrapin Education page to see the many ways in which the GSTC is trying to spread the word about Jekyll terrapins.


 Research and Management

P1050336

Ongoing causeway monitoring provides valuable information that helps guide the management of Jekyll terrapins. Visit our Diamondback Terrapin Research page to find out more about the many different techniques being used to protect these turtles around Jekyll Island.


Want to learn more about diamondback terrapins? Check out our Diamondback Terrapin Facts page to find out more about this neat marsh turtle and why they’re threatened!

What should you do if you spot a terrapin on the Jekyll Island Causeway? Take a look at this guide explaining what Jekyll visitors can do if they encounter a terrapin on the road.

Mar
17

Who’s Who

Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins, oh my!

Have you ever wondered what a tortoise is? What about a terrapin? Do you know the difference between a turtle, a tortoise and a terrapin? Read below to find out more!


Sea Turtles

sea turtle

Other than the time they are in their nest and females when they come out of the ocean to nest, sea turtles spend their entire lives in the ocean. Their shells are built to live in this environment; they are mostly flat, hydrodynamic and streamlined so they are able to swim very fast through the water.

Sea turtles use 4 flippers to swim. The front flippers are used to help pull them through the water and help them swim, and their rear flippers are used to help them steer. Using those big, strong flippers, sea turtles can swim one mile in three minutes, or about 20 miles an hour!

Depending on the species, sea turtles eat different things. For the loggerheads, they eat hard-shelled items such as blue crabs, whelks (a type of sea snail) and horseshoe crabs. Leatherback sea turtles eat jellyfish, hawksbills eat sponges, green sea turtles eat seagrass and algae and the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles eat clams, scallops, shrimp and squid.

How would you tell a male sea turtle apart from a female sea turtle? With sea turtles, we can’t tell if a turtle is male or female until they’re a fully grown adult, which for a loggerhead is around 30-35 years old. It’s then you can tell the gender by looking at the length of their tails. Males have very long, thick tails and females have very short tails.

Sea turtles have many threats they encounter throughout their lives. Depending on their size and age, they have different predators. For adult sea turtles, their main natural predators are sharks, orca whales, but sea turtles biggest threats are humans. There are many things that we do that affect sea turtles in a big way. Sea turtles are sometimes caught on a fish hook or stuck in a shrimp net, boat propellers hit them and some of them mistake marine debris as food items.


Box Turtles

Box Turtles 11-7-09 038

Box turtles are terrestrial (land) turtles and live in meadows and woodland areas. The only time they go into the water is when they need to cool off because it is warm outside or if they need a drink of water.

Their shells are designed to live on land. Since box turtles can’t swim like sea turtles can, their source of protection is the ability to completely close themselves inside their high, domed shells and seal inside like a little box. Box turtles have a hinge on their plastron (bottom shell) that allows them to completely seal up inside their “box.”

Box turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat fruits, vegetables and meat, like berries, plants and earthworms. The way you can tell a male box turtle from a female box turtle are by the color of their eyes. Males have reddish-orange eyes and females have brown eyes.

A big threat for box turtles is the illegal pet trade. Many people think it is ok to have a box turtle as a pet, but they are very hard to take care of and they can live a long time.


Gopher Tortoises

gopher-tortoise

Gopher tortoises are strictly land turtles. They live in long-leaf pine ecosystems, where it’s very dry and can get pretty warm. Gopher tortoises also have a high, domed shell like a box turtle so they can pull themselves completely into their shells as well.

Land turtles don’t have flippers like a sea turtle, but they have very thick, sturdy legs. Their back legs look a lot like elephant feet and their front legs are also thick and sturdy, but they have strong claws for digging.

Gopher tortoises are herbivores, meaning they eat plants like grass, legumes and cacti. Males and female are distinguished by a projection on their plastron (bottom shell) called a gular projection. In males, this projection is long and narrow, whereas the females’ projection is broad and round. Males use this projection to flip over other males that are in their territory.

Construction and development are a big threat for these turtles. Gopher tortoises dig burrows that can be 10 feet deep and 40 feet long. They tend to share this burrow with about 300 other animals who also call it home. So without gopher tortoises, a lot of animals wouldn’t have a home. They are also known as a keystone species. This means that they help maintain the balance of the ecosystem.


Diamondback Terrapin

Cohen the Diamondback Terrapin

Diamondback terrapins are kind of a mix between a land turtle and a sea turtle. They live in the marsh, which is a brackish water area. Brackish water is a coastal vegetated area that is influenced by the ocean tides, so the water isn’t as salty as ocean water. They spend some of their day in the water and other parts of the day on land.

The shells of a Diamondback terrapin are flat and streamlined, but high and domed at the same time. They can pull inside their shells for protection, but it’s a tight fit. The feet of a terrapin are also a mix between a sea turtle and a box turtle. They have webbed feet with claws on them that help them swim as well as scurry up muddy marsh banks.

Out in the marshes, Diamondback terrapins eat fiddler crabs and periwinkle snails. Much like the gopher tortoise, diamondback terrapins are also keystone species. Periwinkle snails are an invasive species, meaning they’re not originally from the United States. These snails eat the Spartina grass (marsh grass), and are capable of turning healthy marshes to mud flats in a matter of days. In coastal areas, the marshes help keep the nearby land above water.

The way to tell a male from a female is by looking at their size. Males are much smaller than the females, only about 4-6 inches long and females are 8-10 inches long. The females need to be bigger because they carry eggs.

Threats for these turtles are cars and crab traps. Female terrapins come out of the marshes to lay their eggs. They look for the highest, driest ground they can find, which is usually near the side of the road. Sometimes they don’t like the side of the road they are on, so they will cross the road to look for a better place to put their eggs. By crossing the roads, they are more likely to be hit by cars. For mostly males and juvenile terrapins, they can get stuck in crab traps, which are submerged underwater, they can’t get out and they can drown.

Jan
28

Puzzles

Loggerhead Love


Box Turtle


Scute


Barnacles


Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling


Phantom the loggerhead sea turtle (former patient)


Emma the green sea turtle (former patient)


Diamondback Terrapin Hatchling