Unusual Terrapin Hatchling Discovered on Lieutenant Island


Unusual Diamondback Terrapin Hatchling

A “wild nest” at the base of Turtle Point’s scruffy dune yielded 12 hatchlings that had scrambled from an emergence hole into the abutting salt marsh and one very unusual baby at the bottom of the egg chamber.  (ASIDE:  We protect a small percentage of nests that we discover during the June-July nesting season.  Those nests that we don’t find until they begin to hatch in September, we term “wild nests” since they have not been protected by predator excluders.  The ratio of protected nests to “wild nests” is greater than one to twenty.)


Large Yolk Sac and Fly Larva

The unusual hatchling had pipped, but had not completely emerged from its eggshell.  Its head, the anterior of its shell and its forelimbs were exposed.  This hatchling’s eyes had not yet opened and its shell contained very little pigment.  The greatest and most immediate concern, though, was an infestation of fly maggots that had invaded through the pipped eggshell.  Maggots were feeding on the egg white and had become embedded in the exposed umbilicus and large yolk sac.


Comparing Unusual and Normal Terrapin Hatchlings

Comparing a typical terrapin hatchling in the background with the unusual hatchling in the foreground, you can see boh the lack of pigment in the shell and the sealed eyelids.


Limited Pigment, White Tail, Six Vertebrals, Five Right Costals

Additional anomalies included six vetebral scutes rather than the normal five and five right costal scutes rather than the normal four.  The mostly white tail also lacked normal pigment.


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Unusual Terrapin Hatchling Discovered

The video above documents my initial examination of the unusual hatchling after it had had an opportunity to hydrate in warm water and after maggots had been removed.


Closeup of Challenged Terrapin Hatchling

Once this little hatchling had been bathed in warm fresh water for about thirty minutes, its eye completely opened and it began to track visual stimuli normally.  Still, the lack of pigment makes for a very unusual looking terrapin.


Protected Nest 136 Hatches

The same day the wild nest which held this unusual baby turtle hatched, protected Nest 136 also hatched.  The picture above and the video below provide a good comparison to contrast a normal emerging terrapin hatchling with this most unusual baby.

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Normal Hatchling Emerges from Protected Nest 136

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