Saturday, September 21, 2013

Wild Neighbors: We're Expecting, I Think

Rhinoclemmys Areolata, known as Furrowed Wood Turtle, or Tortuga Rugosa de Bosque
I wondered for several years if the pair of tortoises that have the run of my property are girl and boy. It's hard with some species to tell the difference, especially when they are juveniles. However after several years of living with me these natives of Mexico are now sexually mature, and behaviors I started noticing last spring convinced me that they were getting ready to produce offspring.

In the past these Furrowed Wood Turtles did not seem particularly social and would often wander separately in the garden. Then suddenly a few months ago, like a couple of teenagers going steady they were always close together. The smaller one (presumably the male) trailed closely behind the larger.

One thing led to another, I guess. On a sunny day in May I saw two small eggs partially interred and covered with leaves in a damp, shady corner of the garden. I took a picture, started a blog post about the discovery, and checked the eggs daily for a couple of weeks. Then one morning the eggs were gone without a trace. I checked carefully around the garden and no signs of tiny tortoises or egg shells were evident. If they had hatched, debris would have been left behind, so sadly I assumed that the eggs had become a night-time meal for a possum, cat, iguana, rat or other opportunist, of which there are many around here.



Then two days ago, another pair of eggs appeared, once again loosely covered with earth and leaves. This time, I am not taking any chances. These I have carefully removed to a similar shady, damp place in the security of the interior patio of the house. Here, larger animals will not have access and I will immediately notice any changes when they happen.

Meanwhile, by chance yesterday afternoon I noticed that the romantic couple are still at it. It's possible that additional clutches are out there, as yet undiscovered. And it certainly looks as if the parents-to-be are working hard to produce more. I'll keep you posted.



14 comments:

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    1. Thanks...I hope you enjoy the blog. I've looked at yours briefly and will be checking back.

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  2. The turtles are cute. After you changed the locale of the eggs, did you notice if they were looking for them?

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    1. I don't believe that the turtles do much to care for the eggs after they have hatched. In the case that I am mistaken, I assume that if they discover their clutch gone, that may just prompt the animals to produce more. Not a bad idea...it's not a very safe world out there for tiny animals. I didn't mention it in this post, but I also recently found another egg shell, and from its appearance I think the contents were probably eaten by something, although I am keeping a sharp lookout for tiny turtles.

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    2. From what I read, protecting the eggs may be the best thing.

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  3. I love it! A very romantic turtle story. I also enjoy Steve Cotton's ongoing crocodile saga. It would be nice to have wildlife living right in the yard but with 3 cats none but the very brave (or very stupid) venture into our yard.

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  4. That is actually exciting, Marc! I sure hope your preservation efforts bear inedible "fruit!". For more titillation, watch the "Mating Turtles" on YouTube. The other YouTube "mating turtles" offering, the one taken at the DC National Zoo, is more in line with your observations, and also interesting.

    Thanks for that post, Marc. Without that, I'd probably never thought of looking for a YouTube video on the subject. It was fun!

    Alinde

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  5. Would you care for a clutch of crocodile eggs. They, too are fascinating.

    I wonder if turtles are like chickens. Take their egss,encourage more laying?

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    1. I think the croc eggs would be a little too much work...the turtles are no trouble at all. They forage in the garden, and I occasionally throw fruit and vegetable cuttings to them, or a tiny bit of fish or meat. They love canned tuna.

      I'll have to look into the literature to see if removing eggs affects their behavior. They seem to ignore the eggs once they are placed, but I am not the keenest observer of that sort of thing...

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  6. I don't know if all turtles/tortoises are the same but general speaking you can determine the sex by turning them over. The male will have a more concave under belly than a female.

    Gives him the ability to "spoon" while mating...

    Otherwise you'd have a lot of frustrated turtles.

    Exciting news though. Are you taking them when you move?

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    1. Melissa, I knew about that aspect of the turtle undersides, and for that reason when I first adopted these I suspected I had two females. When a biologist finally identified them for me, I discovered that in this species the male does not have the concave underside. I sexed the male by watching the behavior.

      Yes, these guys definitely will go with me when I eventually move.

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  7. Beautiful story with great pictures. I'm so glad you're back at your blog. You are always so insightful.

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  8. Lovely pictures Marc... how on earth do you get them to stay in your yard.. I have had a few but they never hang around. I even tried putting them in a pen but they disappeared also.Oh well not meant to be.

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