Sunday, April 10, 2011

Turtle Power

Recent rains have raised the level of our lake dramatically - in fact, after the eight inches of rain we got in just three days a few weeks ago, the water was well up over the banks and we were considering building an ark. The animals of My Florida Backyard didn't really seem to mind, though, especially the ducks and the turtles. In fact, the turtles have been taking advantage of the high water level to climb out on the banks for some sun.

The turtle on the left is a Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox), whose carapace (or shell) is almost leathery in texture - very tough but flexible. Softshell turtles are pretty large, topping out around 30 inches, and have very long necks. They are amazingly fast on both water and land. They're shy around humans, so if one is up on the bank when you approach, you're likely to see it shoot back into the water at an almost alarming speed. Florida softshell turtles are carnivorous, with a diet made up of fish, frogs, and even ducklings. Over the last few springs, we've had a female soft shell turtle emerge onto land in our backyard to lay eggs - click here for details and video.

The other turtle is a Red-Bellied Cooter (Pseudemys nelsoni), another very common Florida freshwater turtle. This turtle is an herbivore, helping to keep lakes clean of algae and other plant matter. This turtle spends much of its time on land or on logs, basking in the sun. We frequently see them swimming along in the lake with just their heads poking out - so fun to watch.

Living on a lake gives us such a wide diversity of like to appreciate in My Florida Backyard, and turtles like these are great examples of those treasures.

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