f99u4le2 - COASTAL REPTILES Lesson 2 Coastal Reptiles The...

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© PROJECT OCEANOGRAPHY COASTAL REPTILES 139 C OASTAL R EPTILES Lesson 2. Coastal Reptiles: The Diamondback Terrapin Lesson Objectives: This section focuses on the Diamondback Terrapin. The student will become familiar with its physiology, habitat, and nesting behaviors. Diamondback terrapins live in coastal salt marshes and estuaries along the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod, Massachusetts southward to the Florida Keys then northward along the Gulf coast and west to Texas. Diamondback terrapins have a wide tolerance of salt in their water, and are the only North American turtles native to brackish (salty, but not as salty as the ocean) waters. Terrapins may hibernate in their northerly ranges but do not seem to hibernate in their warmer southerly ranges. They are small to medium sized turtles, and the females are larger than the males. Their carapace , the top of their shell, is oblong- shaped, and range in color from gray to light brown to black. Each of the seven sub-species of diamondback terrapins has slightly different markings, with grooves and different-colored concentric markings on the scutes. For instance, there is a Florida form of the diamondback terrapin which is slate black in color with a widened head and jaw, which is used for eating barnacles off the roots of mangrove trees. Diamondback terrapins may change in appearance as they get older. When its time to lay their eggs, females leave the water to find land in which they bury their eggs. They prefer sand, but can be very resourceful when they have to find a suitable site, resorting to people's yards or roadsides when necessary. They dig a hole using their hind
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© PROJECT OCEANOGRAPHY COASTAL REPTILES 140 C OASTAL R EPTILES legs only, alternating each leg to dig. They then lay approximately five to seven eggs in the hole, and cover it up leaving no evidence that they have been there. They then make their way back to the water. Conservation of the Diamondback Terrapins A major problem facing the diamondback terrapin is that the coastal areas where they are found are becoming so developed, it is getting harder for the female to find sites to lay her eggs. Prime laying areas are being paved over, forcing female terrapins to cross busy coastal roads to find a nesting site. Often, they are hit by cars before they can lay their eggs. A study was conducted on the northern diamondback terrapin by scientists from the Wetlands Institute, Stone Harbor, NJ and from Stockton College in Pomona, NJ. They found that from 1989-95, 4020 terrapins were killed during the nesting seasons (early June through mid-July) on the Cape May (NJ) Peninsula alone. They were able to harvest 3690 eggs from terrapins that they found killed in the road, and of those eggs, 1175 produced hatchlings. The Wetlands Institute at Stone
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This note was uploaded on 07/31/2011 for the course OCB 6050 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '11 term at University of South Florida.

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f99u4le2 - COASTAL REPTILES Lesson 2 Coastal Reptiles The...

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