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. If the funding I’ve requested doesn’t come through, I have set up a webpage to accept donations, where anyone concerned about the plight of box turtles can help support our project. In order to contribute, please click on any of the baby turtle images below:

This is Jewel, one of the turtles I’m hoping that we will be able to sequence with your support.

You can also support this project by clicking on the button here: 

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 necessarily 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 all we can to ensure hatchling survival. So far, so good–every baby appears to be gaining weight and eating. Should it turn out that these babies are Eastern box turtles, then 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 for humans, of  course).

Once a turtle gets as large as Mr. Putty (the big guy down below), they are pretty much indestructible… unless encountering cars and pet collectors, that is.

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 let me take some nice pictures in natural light.

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.
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!
Lamb also didn’t like getting flipped onto its carapace (back shell), but you can definitely tell that each turtle’s pattern is distinct!
Chippy 2000 is still the smallest turtle, but nevertheless has gained about two grams.
Back on its plastron, Lamb makes a run for it. Turtles can be faster than you might 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 game and start reporting your results, and if you’d like to support this project, please click the button below:

  • December 31, 2015
  • Uncategorized, Entertainment, News, Animals, Science, Education, Next Generation Science Standards

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