Saturday, June 24, 2006

Our State Turtle

Yesterday our state legislature voted the Snapping Turtle to be the New York State reptile. My post celebrates this auspicious occasion and honors the noble creature pictured above.

Snapping turtles are generally a foot long and weigh 30 pounds – although they can get as long as 18.5 inches and weigh 40-60 pounds. In many ways they are very different from other turtles. They have longer and more muscular legs as well as a long, ridged tail that suggests an ancient link to the stegosaurus. The plastron (shell on the underside) is much smaller than the carapace (top shell), making it impossible for snapping turtles to retreat into their shells for protection. When threatened on land where they are particularly slow and awkward, the turtle will lunge forward and snap at its foe. It can actually extend its long neck halfway back to its tail! Although it has no teeth, that hooked beak can probably inflict a painful bite. Snapping turtles are not generally aggressive though. In the shallow lakes and streams where they spend most of their time they are shy around humans, and if they encounter us while they're in the water, they just swim away. Unlike my red-eared sliders, they don’t like to bask in the sun and consequently develop algae on their shells. In winter they hibernate underwater, as would my sliders if they lived a more natural life.

The information here has been gleaned from a number of websites including that of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, from whom I borrowed the cover picture above.

And by the way, the 6/23 NY Times article also reported that the nine-spotted ladybug (now extinct) was replaced by the pink spotted ladybug as the NY State insect, and the striped bass was named NY State’s official saltwater fish. Perhaps someone else will write tributes for them.

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BG said...
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mbg said...

In New Jersey, where I grew up, Snapper soup was a big deal in all the diners. When I was a waitress, we had to make sure we gave people some Sherry to pour into the soup if they ordered it.
Legend has it that one time my grandpa caught an enourmous snapper (big as a manhole cover apparently), kept it in the bathtub for a few days, then sold it to a local restaurant for such soup.
On striped bass: the longest one I ever caught was 26", and I have to say it was an enjoyable fight.
I have to contextualize these comments by saying I grew up fishing just about every weekend, my bro and dad are hunters, and I've been a vegetarian since 1987. Melissa

Rondeau Ric said...

I have to wonder why a snapper? It's neat but, why?
Good post.