A nice day for photographing turtles

Besides data analysis, our turtle study has been relatively quiet lately, partly because the older turtles are hibernating, and partly because we haven’t received any funding for additional microsatellite analysis, although I am trying hard to get the money together… and paying out of pocket, as well. Sometimes, for science to happen quickly, you’ve just got to go ahead and make it happen yourself.

DSC_0005
This is Jewel, one of the turtles I’m hoping that we will be able to sequence sometime soon.

Now since today was so ridiculously warm, and since the baby turtles won’t be going into hibernation, I decided that today might be a good day to test out my new camera and get some decent pics. Only recently have I realized that the camera really does make the difference, and my iPhone pictures, while decent, can’t compete with a device that is specifically designed with one purpose–to capture images in the finest detail.

What a difference the camera can make–I can pick out every scute, notch, and scale!

A total of fourteen turtles are being kept warm this winter, eleven of which weren’t found early enough to be included in our first round of microsatellite analysis, while another three (Lamb, Quania, and Tiny) are being helped through their second winter… just to make sure that they are big enough and strong enough to make it through next winter on their own. The reason is simple: even though turtles are supposed to be adapted for harsh winters, many do not make it through. In times when turtles were abundant, this could be considered an acceptable loss, since turtle numbers would be limited to ensure sufficient resources for all. These days, however, with box turtles on the decline, every baby is precious, and we are doing everything we can to ensure hatchling survival. So far, so good–every baby appears to be gaining weight and eating. They are getting a balanced diet of greens, fruits, insects, and worms, and taking vitamin baths once or twice per week. Should it turn out that these babies are Eastern box turtles, they will be released into suitable habitats once they are a few years old, since they generally tend to live long lives once they reach a sufficient size. Few animals can harm an adult box turtle, protected as they are (except from human pet collectors and cars, of  course).

GS_on_MrPutty
Once a turtle gets as large as Mr. Putty (the big guy down below), they are pretty much indestructible… unless encountering dangers of the modern age.

Here are a few of my favorite photos for the day, along with a couple of videos. I know that it can’t always be 76 degrees Farenheit (24 degrees Celsius) in the middle of December, nor should it, but at least the weather allowed me to take some nice pictures in natural light.

DSC_0121
Turtles (Dr. Mushroom, in this case) do not like being turned over on their backs, but each has a distinctive pattern on the underside of its shell. I also marked each one with a number in non-toxic ink.
DSC_0119
Dr. Mushroom is a lot happier resting on his plastron (bottom shell), and I’m noticing that it looks a whole lot like Tiny. Could the two be related? More microsatellite analysis is needed!
DSC_0163
Lamb also didn’t like getting flipped onto its carapace (back shell), but you can definitely tell that each turtle’s pattern is distinct!
DSC_0016
Chippy 2000 is still the smallest turtle, but nevertheless has gained about two grams. He really seems to like mealworms.
Lamb_the_turtle_moving_fast
Back on its plastron, Lamb makes a run for it. Turtles can be faster than you think!

Students are continuing to work through the turtle family relationships, carefully checking the microsatellites that they inherited from each parent. We are making some interesting discoveries, all while I continue to improve the matching “game” and add new features. If you’d like to get involved, try the games and start reporting your results (along with any computer bugs); it will all help make our research better!

Comments

comments

 

Comments are closed.