Out on the bike trail, my first ride of the spring: In the middle of the pavement stood this enormous turtle. Stood or sat, not sure which, but the giant thing wasn’t going anywhere–and was likely to end crushed beneath some bike tire. So I tried to pick it up.
“Snap!” What a fast pair of jaws that thing had, about two inches across. Enough to bite off three fingers. (Didn’t get video, but this gives you the idea.) So I nudged its shell with my foot, getting it to move bit by bit across the pavement, snapping all the way. Finally pointed it toward the stream. It reminded me of promoting Obamacare.
Turtles are amazing. They are one of the oldest groups of reptiles, predating the dinosaurs. Snapping turtles can stretch their head out like an accordian, really fast to grasp prey. Their eyesight is excellent–I could tell because, as I tried to get behind the turtle, it kept turning to face me down.
The turtle’s shell evolved from its rib cage; but the outer surface of the shell is skin, with large, modified scales. The rest of the turtle’s skin has smaller scales.
Like other reptiles, turtles do not age. As the turtle grows, its organs are indistinguishable from those of younger individuals, aside from size. Scientists study turtles for clues to prevent human aging. Sea turtles swim beautifully, as seen here.