Snapping turtle had been dozing for months. Last November the turtle dug into soft mud under a rotting log at the bottom of Duck Pond. It’s his favorite spot for hibernating.
But now it is spring. The pond water is gradually warming and turtle is stirring. His muscles are stiff and slow, but he pulls himself from the mud and begins a labored swim to the surface. Turtle works his way to the basking log. The old log sticks out of the water in the middle of the pond providing a safe place to rest in the sun.
Other turtles will soon pile onto the same sunlit perch. Sunlight heats the turtles’ cold blood. As their bodies warm, turtle muscles regain strength, and body wastes – built up during hibernation – begin to break down. After the turtles are warm, they will enjoy their first meal since last fall.
The turtles arriving earliest on the basking log are the guys. They are first to awaken in order to build the strength they need to plod around and battle other male turtles. The strongest males claim the choice spots on the paths that female turtles will travel as they move to their traditional nesting areas. Soon turtle spring will be in full swing.
Turtle ancestors have lived on earth for millions of years. When dinosaurs walked on our planet, snapping turtles roamed here too. Dinosaurs died out, but snapping turtles have remained pretty much the same.
Sometimes slow and steady does win the race, at least for turtles.
Nature Detectives Library
Every past issue of Nature Detectives can be found in the Nature Detectives Library!