Two Rare Terrapin Nests Hatch @ Old Schaefer Oceanology Lab

Two Terrapin Hatchlings and Egg from Schaefer Nest

Two rare diamondback terrapin nests hatched at Tabor Academy’s Old Schaefer Oceanology Lab this morning, August 28th.  These two nests yielded 20 emerged hatchlings and two viable eggs; an excellent harvest to potentially reverse the decline of the terrapin population in Sippican Harbor.  On June 9th, the Turtle Journal team found the first terrapin female of the season on a nesting run at the Schaefer Lab (See Threatened Terrapin Nesting @ Tabor Academy’s Schaefer Lab.)

First Terrapin Emergence Hole at Old Schaefer Lab

Turtle Journal’s Sue Wieber Nourse confirmed the existence of terrapins in Sippican Harbor in the late 1990s when she discovered a hatchling at the Old Schaefer Oceanology Lab and observed adults snorkeling in the estuary.  As the inaugural holder of Tabor’s Jaeger Chair for Marine Studies, Wieber Nourse advanced original terrapin research and conservation in Buzzards Bay through a prestigious grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Fund.  She and her students identified the shore immediately surrounding the Schaefer Lab as a key nesting site for this threatened species and formally reported this scientific finding to the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.

Two Diamondback Terrapin Hatchlings @ Schaefer Lab

This morning Wieber Nourse found the first emergence hole midway between the lab and the beach.  She excavated to discover two perfect hatchlings remaining in the nest, one viable egg, egg shards from six emerged hatchlings, and three undeveloped eggs.

Carapace & Plastron of Two Schaefer Lab Terrapin Hatchlings

The beautiful hatchlings were in perfect physical condition.  Their yolk sacs were mostly absorbed.  Both babies sported carapace anomalies with extra scutes; nothing that will affect their survival, but still worth noting as a potential identification mark when we see these babies again as sub-adults in another four or five years.

Second Terrapin Emergence Hole at Old Schaefer Lab

Wieber Nourse found a second emergence hole a little closer to the beach.  In this nest, Sue discovered another viable egg and the egg shards from 12 hatchlings that had already emerged.  This morning’s discoveries, plus an additional Schaefer Lab nest being protected by the Turtle Journal team, confirm the critical importance of this nesting site for survival of the Sippican population of threatened diamondback terrapins. 

Comments are closed.