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About our turtle....
Turtles are a group of vertebrate animals belonging to the order Testudines.
Together with snakes, lizards, crocodilians, and the tuatara, they
(Class Reptilia). Turtles are the oldest living group of
reptiles, first appearing about 200 million years ago. Like the other
orders of reptiles, turtles are cold-blooded (ectotherms), have scaly
skin, and lay eggs with a yolk and tough outer covering (amniote egg).
Among the differences between turtles and other reptiles, the most exceptional is the presence of shells. The turtle's shell is a covering that encloses the turtle's body. Within this armor, the soft body parts of the turtle are protected. From the shell, project the turtle's head, legs, and tail. The shell of the turtle is divided into two parts, the upper carapace and the lower plastron. The two are connected on the sides by the bridge. A turtle can not walk out of its shell, the carapace is fused with the ribs of the turtle. The attributes of the turtle's shell can vary greatly, from hard and bony to flexible and leathery. Some turtles have shells with bright markings or unusual shapes.
Turtles have solid skulls without temporal openings. Instead of teeth, they have horny beaks. The beak of a turtle is adapted for it's primary diet. Carnivorous species have sharp hooked beaks to grasp and slice animal prey. Vegetarian turtles and those that eat mollusks have beaks with flat, broad crushing surfaces.
Turtles can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They have adapted to a wide range of habitats, including deserts, rainforests, mountains, and rivers. Marine turtles occur in tropical and temperate seas throughout the world. Many of the terrestrial turtles are referred to as tortoises. In the United Kingdom and many other countries, freshwater turtles are called terrapins. In the United States, this name is used for a species that lives in brackish water.
Varying greatly in size, turtles range in size from diminutive mud turtles maturing at 4.5 inches (11.2 cm) to the monstrous leatherback sea turtle which reaches lengths of 8 feet (244 cm) and weighs 1,600 pounds (726 kg).
Today, many species of turtles are threatened with extinction. Human activities, such as habitat destruction and over-collecting, are the main causes of diminishing populations. Whether or not these unique creatures will continue to survive is in the hands of man.
More Turtle Trivia
WE SHARE THE BEACH--WITH THE SEA TURTLES
By Sharon Maxwell
May 1, and day is dawning on the beach. Winter has passed and here we are again walking the beaches looking for sea turtle tracks-called crawls.
Each walk brings new sights and adventures. The early morning is my favorite time of day. The thrill of seeing a freshly laid track and a nest is one to stir your heart. To know that a 250-pound-or-more adult female sea turtle has come onto the beach at night, using only her flippers to drag herself up to nest, is mind-blowing.
Adult males never come onshore, just females, and only to nest. What a journey she has, to ensure that her breed will go on.
As I walk I see how people have claimed sea turtle nesting habitat for themselves. Besides buildings lining the dune area, huts, tents, gazebos, chairs, jet skis, boats, signs, garbage cans, and various items are left in this nesting habitat overnight. In the early morning, the day’s umbrellas and chairs are being lined up for beach users.
Can it be I see an enormous drill being used to make the holes for the umbrellas? What if they drill into a sea turtle egg? Sometimes I have to take a very deep breath and remember the good people who want to help sea turtles.
It is hard to imagine a sea turtle being able to nest at all. Sand fences put up after Opal six years ago and now used as privacy fences grow in numbers each year. These may help build dunes if installed properly and raised every six months. But most are put up and forgotten, and we have seen sea turtle tracks bump into them and do a false crawl, only to have to come in again to nest.
And we have seen adult sea turtles wounded on the sharp metal. It looks like an obstacle course, and this is the place sea turtles have nested for millions of years.
Mom sea turtle is coming back to the area she was born in after a long, hard maturing process. Only one in every 15,000 baby turtles ever makes it to sexual maturity. What she finds must be a shock: the confusing lights, the silhouettes of buildings where none were, and the items left on the beach. When she crawls into them, she really does not know what to do. At times she returns to the Gulf and sometimes she nests anyway.
I have seen crawls bumping into chairs and turning, only to bump into other items. I have seen nests in front of chairs, tracks through gazebos, tracks that go around in circles because after she nests she can’t find the water because of the lights. Tracks that go into, under and all around dune walkovers. This sea turtle thinks our beaches are her nesting area only to find we have taken over.
Resident and tourist alike can help by respecting the beach as sea turtle nesting areas. Use the area in the daytime for your pleasure, but when your day is over, please take your items off the beach with you. Fill in any holes you dig--they are traps for sea turtles.
If you are on the beach at night give yourself time to get your night vision and then enjoy your walk. If you must have a flashlight, turn it on for just a few minutes and then use a red light. The South Walton Turtle Watch is giving away envelopes containing red tissue paper to help you and the turtles.
The joy you find from the beach will be more than doubled when you take the time to be a good steward of the beach. Just knowing you have helped is a reward.
Sharon Maxwell has headed the South Walton County, Florida, Turtle Watch for almost 10 years.