Saturday, September 3, 2011

Baby Box Turtle

A long journey begins with the first step, and when you are a freshly hatched box turtle, the journey ahead could be immeasurably long.

Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina carolina, may live to be 100 years, if it escapes all the raccoon and skunk predators, avoids being collected by a well-meaning child, or mowed over by equipment or cars. At least wares made of endangered tortoise shells are no longer legal.

Our little terrapin would be but a tasty morsel to a passing coyote. The outer shell is still soft and pliable. This delicate little land rover is just starting on a lifetime of adventure.

Closer inspection reveals the knobby "egg-tooth" the little fellow used to peck his way out of his egg, and into the immense world. Lucky for him, it was only a curious naturalist who found his hiding place.

You can't see me...

When released back to the world, he immediately hid.

The shape and color of this youngster's shell is strikingly different from and older box turtle's.
How can this keel-shaped dish become the rounded bowl we recognize as a box turtle's shape?

And how can this little turtle grow into....

a full sized turtle? A full grown adult is pictured- next to a woman's hiking boot for size comparison.

Since turtles never shed their shells completely, how does one confined by a ridged exo-skeleton grow larger? The answer is scutes (pronounced: "scoots.") Scutes are like big scales that peel off to reveal new growth beneath them. A healthy turtle sheds his shell, piece by piece as it grows. Hopefully, our little "softy" will someday reach this size.

Live long and prosper, little baby box turtle!


  1. Oh my goodness. Despite all my education in science and rationality, the sight of a baby turtle still leaves me speechless except for an enthusiastic "aawwwwwwwwwww!" What a precious, precious creature.

  2. ...loved this post. Turtles are among my favorites. I've seen plenty of baby water turtles but have never come across a baby Box turtle. He's incredibly cute...

  3. Baby Box Turtles are one of my favorite finds. I don't see them often enough. I'm much more likely to find a raided nest.

  4. Yes, this little guy was a real treat! And as with many rarities, Mr. John Howard was the sharp guy who found it!

    Special thanks to John for the photo opportunity.