Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Monday: 25 August 2014

The Little Ones  -  @ 10:32:36
Almost all the box turtles I see are adults nearing or at the maximum adult size. Immature box turtles, say under five years old, are very secretive and difficult to find - you can imagine why this is: everything will eat a baby box turtle. But once a year or so I will find a very young adult that has become a little more confident of exposure.

Yesterday I found this little female just outside of the house area, burrowing into the litter next to a log. She was very active and not at all inclined to retreat into her shell.

It was quite a trial to get her measurements. She kept trying to climb out of the sock that I use to hold the turtles to get their weight on the hanging scale. She weighed 245 grams, just a little more than half the adult size. Looks to me like she has nine or ten well defined annular scute rings. This gets pretty close to the practical limit for estimating age by that simple method.

Perhaps one of the most interesting finds so far this season has been the much smaller male below. He weighs just 170 grams, but he's also the first immature that I've found twice. Last year, just two days shy of exactly one year ago, I found him industriously digging his way under litter in the fairy ring. He weighed 140 grams then, so he's gained about 20% body weight since. This year I found him 140 feet farther south, across a small gully and making his way atop the pine litter.

As is the tradition on the first rediscovery, I've named him.

Meet Biltmore. On the left is last year August 8; August 6 this year is on the right. He was disinclined to make merry.

I'll have more to say about Biltmore in a day or so.

(Long time readers will remember the very youngest turtles I found, in mid September 2009, after spending the summer guarding their nesting site. Here they are a day or so after hatching, and upon release, a few days later. And one more, exploring possibilities for identification. They averaged about 6.5 grams in weight.)

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