Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Empty shell...

While walking on a rocky beach along the Little Miami River, I saw a small exposed spinal column and what looked like ribs lying abandoned on one of the rocks at the water's edge. It only took a second to realize it was all that was left of a baby snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine). The little turtle had had a very short life, but another creature went on to live another day. Maybe a fox, a raccoon, or a skunk found the little turtle while out on its nightly wanders and ate the tender flesh under the plastron, discarding the carapace (upper shell) and moving on to find its next bit of sustenance...

...an empty baby snapping turtle carapace on the rocks at the edge of the Little Miami River. 

...all the ridges and sharp points on a snapping turtle's carapace (upper shell) are distinctive and make it easy to identify what type of turtle this was. 

Once snapping turtles reach maturity, they have few natural predators, but as hatchlings they are vulnerable to predation. When baby turtles hatch and leave their nest, they have to make a dangerous overland hike to get to to the water. They often travel at night and encounter foxes, owls, raccoons, and skunks along their way. During the day, Great Blue Herons think they make a tasty treat, hawks like them too, and once they make it to the water, adult snapping turtles can get them, or even large fish.


13 comments:

Montanagirl said...

Interesting! I've seen on TV shows where baby turtles are scurrying for the water as fast as their little legs will carry them. But there are gulls waiting, and other predators as well, to snatch them up.

TexWisGirl said...

i wish they had more natural predators as adults. they take too many ducklings and snap legs on adult ducks... *sigh*

Mary Ann Gieszelmann said...

Thoughtful post, Kelly. Nothing lives and grows without somehow taking from some other life.

Appalachian Lady said...

Very interesting post. I see box turtle shells but not snapping turtles.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hmmmm... Poor little guy. Doesn't sound like it is easy for the little ones to make it, does it????? Such is life.

Hope you are having a good summer. Very hot and DRY here... Yuk..
Hugs
Betsy

the cuby poet said...

Sad but a slice of reality. 'Nature red in tooth and claw'

Janice K said...

You are so observant, Kelly. I guess we were often led to believe that all they had to do was pull up into their shell and they would be safe, but not so.

Banjo52 said...

Sometimes the whole food chain-predation thing still bothers me. Typical English major, I suppose. A while back another blogger posted some shots of the remains of a cardinal after a hawk got him. How am I supposed to be pals with hawks after that? Cardinals brighten every day for me. What's an arrogant, menacing hawk done for me or anyone lately? Majesty, my Aunt Fannie. "Hawk" is just short for "Psychopath." OK, pretty lame humor. Maybe I should just stay indoors.

Elaine said...

It's a tough world out there for all baby critters. Whenever I see the survival rate of different animals it always seems very low.

Gillian Olson said...

Interesting shots, you have a keen eye.

Hilke Breder said...

I have seen baby snapping turtles near our pond and on our driveway. They look so vulnerable when that size. When fully grown you better keep your distance! Two ends of a spectrum....

Chris said...

Ouch, I'm a bit sad when I see that but I guess it is anture afterall!

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! It's always sad to see an empty shell, but it helps to know another creature has gone on to live another day. The shell abandoned on the rocks was striking and interesting, so I photographed it. We all seem to become reflective when we see bones. We wonder what happened to the creature, and we are reminded of the fragile nature of life.