Friday, October 14, 2011

Growing up turtle: Freshwater cooters get a head start

The Aquarium recently welcomed a clutch of tiny Northern red-bellied cooters to a cozy seasonal home behind the scenes. They are part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's head start growing program. As our Exhibit Galleries Blog followers know, these young freshwater turtles will spend the winter here so they can get a head start on growing up.

The biologists that care for these turtles say they can tell the turtles are getting bigger every day. Can you tell? Check out the video posted in the recent blog post to see if you notice a difference from last week to today.

The aquarists mark a number on each turtle's bright red belly so that they can track their weight. Number 5 here weighs almost 12 grams.

Scientists initially thought the Northern red-bellied cooter was a separate species from its counterparts in the mid-Atlantic states, but recent studies show they are one and the same species.

When these turtles are released next May they will be at least the size of a 2 or 3 year old turtle,  increasing their chances of surviving in the wild, where predators prey on young, small turtles. In the meantime, you might be able to meet one during a live animal presentation as soon as they grow a little bigger.

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