Survival Skills — 27 December 2000

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Ice Floes Grip South Wellfleet Marsh

As winter ice locks down the Wellfleet marshes a full month earlier than last year’s freeze, one cannot help but marvel at the amazing survival skills of our local diamondback terrapins who live at the northernmost edge of the species’ habitat.  Unrelenting northwest gales and frigid temperatures have transformed the Land of Ooze into an Arctic landscape.

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Tiny Terrapin Hatchlings Emerged in Late Fall

Hard to believe . . . just two months ago tiny 6-gram hatchlings were emerging from upland nest sites . . .


. . . and scurrying for the protective nursery habitat of these same salt marsh creeks.


How they manage to endure these harsh winter conditions while their cousins are still basking in Florida sunshine challenges researchers and poets alike.  Three hundred eighty years ago, their ancestors watched stoically as long boats from the Mayflower with our ancestors aboard investigated Wellfleet Bay for the first time.  So, I guess they may be even better at this than we are; they’ve had a lot more practice.  Still, when you look at the very spot where these little critters disappeared into the “safety” of the marsh in October, you’ve got to admire their plucky survival skills.

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