Posted by: Pelodiscus on 2016/11/20 11:00:00 5567 reads

Freshwater turtles 6 Things You Might not Know About Iowa's Turtles

6 Things You Might not Know About Iowa's Turtles
Whether they walk on land or paddle in the river, the 17 species of turtles we have in Iowa are much more complex than meets the eye - many tout extensive lifespans and specific habitat needs. See how much turtle trivia you know:

Hungry Dance
An endangered species living near woodland streams in northeast Iowa, the wood turtle gets its name from the patterns on its intricate brown shell, which looks like the growth rings of a tree. These turtles are omnivorous, with a large part of their diet consisting of plant material like berries and dandelions. However, they also eat insects, earthworms, mollusks and even carrion. To trick their food to come to them, wood turtles will stomp their feet repeatedly on soft soil to draw earthworms to the surface, which likely think the vibrations come from falling rain. As they emerge from the soil, the earthworms are promptly eaten by the clever hungry turtle.

Snap To It
The largest turtle species in Iowa, mature snapping turtles can easily average the size of a dinner plate. Easily identifiable by their long, saw-toothed tails, prominent beak, and surly disposition, snappers live in permanent bodies of water all over the state. Snapping turtles will occasionally cross roads and highways, particularly females during their egg-laying season in early summer. Few of the eggs they lay will survive the 50 to 60 days until hatching due to heavy predation from raccoons, skunks, ferrets, snakes, coyotes, bullfrogs, otters, herons and gulls, and the surviving quarter-sized hatchlings continue to be prey for various predators until they reach approximately a three-inch shell size. At this point they start becoming difficult to fight and swallow. Like some other turtle species, the snapper hatchlings’ gender is strongly affected by the temperature of the nest in which they incubate. A cool nest will result in a high proportion of male hatchlings, while a warm nest will yield mostly females.

Placid Paddlers
There are two species of softshell turtles in Iowa: spiny and smooth. Although both are very difficult to catch due to their speed in water, spiny softshell turtles will scratch and bite furiously to escape capture, whereas smooth softshell turtles are rather docile when handled (note: it is legal to catch these turtles by hand in Iowa). Male spiny softshell turtles can be easily identified by prominent dark spots on their light green shells. All softshell turtles’ shells resemble a leathery pancake, and in some specimens the turtles’ spine and ribs are clearly visible underneath. These turtles also have extended snorkel-like noses and long necks, which they use to breathe while hiding from predators and prey under the sand or mud of the river bottom. Their skin is also substantially more permeable than that of hard-shelled turtles, and a softshell turtle can obtain sufficient oxygen in through their skin to remain submerged for several hours.

Photo: American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)
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