Spotted Turtle Mating Aggregation Near SouthCoast Rookery

Don Lewis Examines Male Spotted Turtle at SouthCoast Rookery

Close by the SouthCoast rookery with its assortment of great blue heron and osprey treetop aeries, the Turtle Journal team monitors a spotted turtle mating aggregation that occupies a small portion of an NSTAR power-line right-of-way.  Over the past couple of years NSTAR has brought in heavy machinery in, so far, failed attempts to fill in these wetlands and probable vernal pools.  Last year the ground was torn up by tracked vehicles that gouged through the swampy terrain.

Male Spotted Turtle #222 (Clemmys guttata)

On Monday, April 7th, the Turtle Journal team observed Spotted Turtle #222 basking in this mating aggregation.  A mature male, #222 weighed 138 grams (4.9 ounces) and his shell measured 9.72 centimeters (3.8 inches).  He is a recapture at this site from the time before NSTAR tried to fill in these wetlands.  So, at least for the nonce, it appears that this mating aggregation continues despite human efforts to degrade the natural habitat.

Vive La Difference!

(Telling He from She)

Male Spotted Turtle #222 Plastron (Bottom Shell)

Female Spotted Turtle #105 Plastron (Bottom Shell)

Telling the difference between males and females proves an extremely useful research skill.  Spotted turtles exhibit gender dichromatism.  Females, such as #105 immediately above, have brightly colored chins; males, like #222, have drably colored chins.  Females have thin, dainty tails and males have thick, showy tails.  Females also have flat, washboard abs, and males have an indentation in their abdominal plastron (bottom shell) scutes.  Although some might suggest that the following distinction is subjective, females are exquisitely beautiful and males are merely strikingly handsome.  Now you, too, can celebrate “la difference.”

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