Thatch_TALK: Turtle Hunt 4-01-2012

Today, Elke invited me to go on a turtle hunt in the park across the street. She was playing with friends, in the park, yesterday and she came across two turtles in the marshy water areas with tall green plants.

Rule: We pick up, inspect, put back was established before it was agreed upon that we will go out.

The turtles that are common in this area, Northwest Florida, are Eastern Box Turtles, of which we have two as pets.

About Eastern Box Turtles:
The Eastern Box Turtle is one of two species of box turtle found in the United States (along with the Western Box Turtle), and is the only "land" turtle found in the Carolinas. Although it may resemble a tortoise, the box turtle is in fact more closely related to some "aquatic" turtles such as sliders and cooters. There are four subspecies of eastern box turtle, and at Longleaf we find the more common eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina).
The eastern box turtle, spends most of its time on dry land, although they can be found hanging around in shallow pools and mud when the temperatures outside are hot. It is especially well adapted to surviving many of the dangers that terrestrial living throws its way. The tough carapace or shell of the turtle provides protection from predators, and are often distinctly patterned to allow individuals to identify others of their species from a distance.


When we walked into the park and moved towards the bushes, where she saw the turtles, a young gentleman called out to us. He told us to be careful because the water moccasins are in their mating season. He and his family had seen some mating on the grass and in the water in the marshy areas of the park. They were already in the park for about an hour.

Some water moccasin facts:
The cottonmouth moccasin, when threatened, coils and opens its mouth wide, displaying its fangs and exposing the white interior of its mouth and throat, thus the name cottonmouth. The adults are dark colored, almost black, and are heavy-bodied. They range in size from 20-48 inches, with a record of 74.5 inches (over 6 feet.) Juveniles are brightly colored with reddish brown crossbands which contain many dark spots and speckles, and have a sulfur colored tail, which is held erect and wiggled like a caterpillar to attract prey within striking range. The pattern darkens with age, so adults retain only a hint of the banding or are uniformly black. Both adults and juveniles have a broad, dark facial stripe which camouflages the eye. The juvenile cottonmouth is often confused with copperheads because of their similar appearance. However, copperheads do not have the distinctive dark band over the eye, and the crossbands of the copperhead contain no spots and speckles. Further, the range of the copperhead in Florida is primarily in the panhandle, mostly along the Apalachicola River and its tributaries and in the western tip of the panhandle.

Cottonmouths are members of the pit viper family, which also includes Copperheads and Rattlesnakes. Pit vipers have several characteristics which distinguish them from non-poisonous snakes:

1. Half-inch hollow fangs which contain complex, poisonous venom.
2. There is a deep facial pit between the nostril and the eye.
3. The head is thick, triangular, and distinctly broader than the neck.
4. When viewed from above, the eye cannot be seen.
5. The top of the head in front of the eyes is covered with large platelike scales.
6. The pupil is elliptical instead of round.
7. Single, non-divided belly scales from the head to the tip of the tail.
8. Short, stubby tail instead of long and whiplike (Only Rattlesnakes have rattles).


Since, Elke and I consider ourselves Science folks but still wish to be cautious --- We queried about the location of these mating moccasins. Thanked, the young gentleman, showed him that we were prepared with our wading boots, though we are not sure about how well they will protect us from snake bites, and we set off looking for moccasins and turtles. Alas, our search for evidence was futile.

From the summer of 2010 and continues to be our way of teaching and learning in the moment --- We have gone on snail, tadpole, hermit crab hunts.*

Our introduction to Science on the Go, teaching and learning came from pet ownership --- Guy the tadpole was given to Elke, a present from twin boys in the neighborhood. [Guy is not pronounced the French way]

Here is a video of our excitement over, Guy!

+Allison Sekuler +ScienceSunday

#sciencesunday #science #scienceisawesome #STREaM

+The Education STREaM, Inc.
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