Thursday, June 6, 2013

The backlog logjam continues—here’s the BABY BOX TURTLE I’ve been holding out on.

gem-studded puballs and infant

But first, a pair of gem-studded puffballs, Lycoperdon perlatum, with infant in moss. Each of the little spines are made up of about five strands of surface fuzz, clumped together. As these puffballs age they get a puckered tip which eventually splits open so the spores can spew forth. The surface is very delicate and the tiny gems rub off very easily.

gem-studded puffballs

Next, a gratuitous shot of some squirrels doing something. It might have been some kind of territorial stand-off, or something friendlier.

squirrels doing something in a tree

Now for the good part.

You know how when you go for a hike you almost always come upon a nice box turtle? And how you have to count the ridges on one of the scutes to see how old it is? And how they always seem to be between 12 and 16 years old?   

Well, they might be a lot older than that, but after a point, when a turtle has maxed out on size, the ridges are so close together as to be indistinguishable. The "scutes" are the vaguely hexagonal-shaped sections of their shells--little kids always draw them when they draw turtles. As the turtle grows the shell expands, and each year adds another ridge, like the growth rings of a tree. Past a certain age, though, the ridges aren't very obvious. And it's not a precise gauge, as turtles in captivity who don't hibernate can put on two ridges a year.

Various sources report that box turtles can live 25-30 years, and their life expectancy can be much longer in the wild (!).

Once I found one that was about half the size of the ones I usually find, and his scute-annuli said he was about six or seven years old.

I have said to more than one of my hiking pals, “How come you never see baby box turtles? Why do we only find these standard-sized adults?” Well, I don’t have anything interesting on that (except reading here and there that baby box turtles are seldom seen because they are small and secretive), but I finally did find a baby box turtle! I mean, REALLY a baby! Like, he had probably hatched that morning! As in, mere hours ago! Maybe ONE hour!

baby box turtle with foot for scale

Walked right past it ten minutes earlier (hopefully not this close)! Women’s size 7-1/2, for scale.

baby box turtle with fingertip for scale

baby box turtle in hand

I am not a big girl. On this day in early May, my thumbnail measured 9/16” long. That would make this baby box turtle shell about 1-1/4” long. You should look at that on a ruler now.

baby box turtle navigating grass

Imagine being so tiny a blade of grass is something to consider.

baby box turtle top view

Young box turtles don’t develop a hinge on their plastron until they’re four or five years old. Wonder why.

If I hadn't lost my mind with delight (and only had about 10 minutes because I had to be somewhere--big mistake when on a hike) I might have taken the time to look at its hind toes. Missouri only has two kinds of box turtles: Ornate and Three-toed. I could have figured it out, I just know it!

baby box turtle profile

Yep, a baby box turtle! Look at it!

1 comment:

  1. That last photo is especially awesome. A tiny freakin' turtle!