Common snapping turtle – Chelydra serpentina

Figure 1 -Common Snapping Turtle Laying Eggs Figure 2 -Common Snapping Turtle Laying EggsFigure 3 - Common Snapping Turtle Laying EggsFigure 4 - Common Snapping Turtle Laying Eggs

Today’s image is actually a short slide show; so please be sure to watch the whole set. I had the privilege yesterday of encountering this common snapping turtle – Chelydra serpentina laying eggs in sandy soil besides the path at the wildlife refuge. I gingerly walked past her, watching her carefully as she watched me carefully, and stood a while taking photographs. It never occurred to me that my camera has the ability to take video.

Here is a clear example of when a DSLR is preferable to an IPhone. With the IPhone I might have lost fingers getting close enough – or she might have eaten the IPhone – you never know.

As the name implies this is the most common species of snapping turtle in North America. The other species being the alligator snapping turtle – Macrochelys temminckii. There’s a lot in a name. My wife tells me that this one needs a name. So I will call her “Chely Serpentine.” The term “serpentina” or snakelike, derives from this snapper’s ability to bend its head back and, well, snap you. Hint – mind your social distance. I have read that they are not particularly aggressive, except when threatened. Book knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I tried very hard not to threaten Chely as I took her picture.

I include one full color image to give you a sense of the scene, but took the rest in black and white because the prehistoric demeanor would seem to demand it. I love the intricacies of  shell and armour and the dinosaur-like face with bugs clinging to it – the result of digging in the sandy soil.

Snapping turtles reach maturity at twelve to fifteen years of age, depending upon whether they are in a southern or more northern environment respectively. They typically lay twenty to forty golf-ball sized eggs, which hatch in the early fall. There is a very intriguing aspect to snapping turtle egg development. Snapping turtles have temperature-dependent sex determination. Eggs maintained at 68°F produce only females; eggs maintained at 70-72°F produce both male and female turtles; and those incubated at 73-75°F produce only males. Not surprisingly, there is a very high mortality rate among hatchlings. It is unclear how long these behemoths live, but capture, tag, recapture programs place this at about one hundred years.

Figure 1 – Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 190 mm, ISO 1600, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/1000th sec at f/7.1 with no exposure compensation.

Figure 2 – Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 310 mm, ISO 1600, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/1000th sec at f/7.1 with -1 exposure compensation.

Figure 3 – Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 135 mm, ISO 1600, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/800th sec at f/7.1 with -1 exposure compensation.

Figure 4 – Canon T2i with EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens at 310 mm, ISO 1600, Aperture Priority AE Mode, 1/1000th sec at f/7.1 with -1 exposure compensation.

 

This entry was posted in Personal Photographic Wanderings.

2 Comments

  1. Rebekah Johnson May 31, 2016 at 2:11 am #

    I loved this post. Thanks for the preview. What an awesome opportunity to come across this turtle. The only time I saw a turtle lay its eggs I had to stay up until 3 am.

    • David May 31, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

      Thanks, Reebs. I am going to send you another image directly. D