Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mutant Turtles

Catching the Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) earlier this month with the bite mark on its shell, got us thinking about other strange turtle shells we've seen over the years here at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.

In January 2005, we found a male Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) fast asleep in the middle of the driveway. We were outside enjoying the warm sun just as he was. As we took our closeup shots, we noticed that we would be able to see his face even if he close himself in his shell. At some point, something had chewed a small crescent out of the carapace above his head.

In July of 2007, we found another Eastern Box Turtle near the low boardwalk. As can be seen in the images, the turtle's shell has likely been pitted by a bacteria infection like Citrobacter freundii or Beneckea chitinovora. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, "Bacterial diseases are common in all reptilian orders. Most infections are caused by opportunistic agents that infect immunosuppressed hosts."

Finally, on April Fool's Day 2008, we found a Spotted Turtle moving through the shallow water near the low boardwalk. The front end of its shell has been deformed. After quickly ruling out the possibility that the turtle had experienced a high-speed collision with a solid object, we checked with Dr. Jackie Litzgus as she has studied this species of turtle for many years. Her hypothesis is that the turtle suffered a predatory attack while it was quite young and its shell was not yet fully-developed.

That's alot of calcium trama! We thought breaking both collarbones...twice...was a big deal.

Images by Mark Musselman


G Gekko said...

It is really interesting to see these pictures and the trauma that these turtles have suffered through without succumbing to their injuries. It really show how resilient box turtles can be. Thanks for posting them.


G Gekko said...

It is very interesting to see these pictures and the kind of trauma these box turtles have suffered through without succumbing to the injuries. it really show how resilient these animals can be. Thanks for posting them.

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