Watch Terrapin Hatchlings Emerge From Their Shells

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.

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