Watch Terrapin Hatchlings Emerge From Their Shells
SCDNR researcher Andrew Grosse captured these diamondback terrapin hatchlings just as they were emerging from their eggs.
Grosse is part of a team at SCDNR that’s studying ways to protect this distinctive turtle native to salt marshes along the East and Gulf Coasts. One of the conservation tools they’ve been exploring is a headstart program, which gives juvenile terrapins a boost by hatching and rearing them in the lab. The first few months of life are difficult for diamondback terrapins, who make a tiny, tasty snack for many predators. By allowing them to grow a little larger in a predator-free environment, the hypothesis is that more hatchlings will survive to maturity.
As in other reptiles, the gender of a diamondback terrapin is determined by the temperature under which the egg develop. All of the eggs are in this clutch incubated at 87° F, making them females. Baby terrapins are equipped with a single sharp egg tooth, which they use to slit a hole in the leathery eggshell when they're ready to hatch. It's a slow process—hatching can take multiple days from start to finish—so catching the exact moment of emergence is a rare feat!
Wondering about the red-orange blobs on the hatchlings' bellies? Those are what's left of the egg's yolk sac, which hatchlings continue to absorb for a week or so after emerging.
Learn more about diamondback terrapins and SCDNR’s work to protect them here.
Report a terrapin sighting here.