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Teenage Mutant Ninja Terrapin

December 28, 2012

I was out on the meadows not so long ago walking the dogs as usual, when I spied on the far side bank of the river, basking in one of the only rays of sunshine we have had this year; a red eared terrapin.tumblr_mb4p4xAdAy1qedouro1_500

Not the usual sighting for the meadows, or in fact for the UK. However, the red eared terrapin Trechemys scripta elegans became the most popular reptile pet in the UK during the late 1980s when a group of four teenage mutant ninja turtles named after Renaissance artists where at the peak of their popularity.

Unfortunately what starts off as an appealing hatchling that comfortably fits into a small fish tank, will after a few years become about 0.3m in length and weigh up to 2kg! It is perhaps not surprising therefore that so many of these creatures find their way into streams, rivers and ponds, even though releasing them into the wild is strictly illegal.

Red Eared Terrapins are not a natural species to the British Isles and do not breed in the wild in this country for the simple reason that in order to hatch, the eggs need to be incubated at 25 deg C for about 60 days. However, they can live to over 40 years so have become common in most areas.Turtle,Red-eared_Slider

Anyone who has seen a terrapin munching its way through a batch of frog or fish spawn could be forgiven for thinking that these creatures represent a serious threat to native wildlife. However, their chances of surviving for any length of time in the wild are not great enough to make them an ongoing problem.

These terrapins can be recognised by a red stripe down each side of the head. Almost totally aquatic, only leaving the water to bask on hot sunny days, they hibernate over the winter at the bottom of ponds or shallow lakes where they enter a state of torpor. They will tolerate other species in their habitat, but will quickly dive underwater when approached making them difficult to catch.

So if you see our little Michelangelo you are very lucky!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Abigail McKern permalink
    December 29, 2012 7:11 pm

    Wow! That was really interesting, thank you Ed!

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