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Snapping Turtle

April 13, 2014


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.

  1. April 13, 2014 5:14 pm

    What a handsome creature. It looks primordial. Not sure I would have had the courage to bother it but it sounds like you did it a service.

  2. diane permalink
    April 14, 2014 6:31 am

    What a gorgeous turtle!

  3. Frank Branchini permalink
    April 14, 2014 9:34 am

    Thanks for helping this guy! I love turtles!!! The info you provided was fascinating.

  4. April 14, 2014 10:29 pm

    Yes, s/he was an amazing fellow creature. When I see a turtle or a groundhog, or even a tree, I always think “family member,” we share a great-grandparent way back a few million years.

  5. Elizabeth Janes... permalink
    April 26, 2014 12:22 am

    My dad used to talk about the time he pulled his car over just in time to stop a helpful young man from reaching down to grasp the shell of a large snapper trying to cross the road. Dad found a stick, about as thick as his thumb, and brought it slowly toward the turtle’s head, and watched the man’s eyes bug out when the neck stretched out impossibly far, lightning-quick, as it lunged. It snapped the stick with no difficulty. (And sometimes they hisssss at you, which is more than a little scary.) The last time I saw one crossing a busy road I managed to get it to crawl onto a hunk of cardboard I had in the car, so I could just drag the cardboard across. I kept expecting it to leap into the air to reach my hands.

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