Home > Biology > Turtle, turtle, turtle: Part One – Soft Shelled Turtles

Turtle, turtle, turtle: Part One – Soft Shelled Turtles

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I really love turtles. I just think that they’re fascinating creatures. They’re slow and plodding on dry land, but they are graceful and beautiful to watch while in the water. The fact that they could be trained to be ninjas while still adolescents probably did much to build my reverence for them in my younger years. I wanted one badly when as a child, but my parents warned that they carried diseases. In hindsight, they probably just didn’t want to clean out the aquarium, or for me to take it out of the aquarium and have it crawling around on the new carpeting. Though I’m all grown up and on living far away from their dictatorial grasp, I haven’t yet taken the plunge and bought my own. This can be attributed to my wife’s dictatorial grasp, but in her defense it’s also because I’m too lazy to clean out an aquarium. As compensation, I’ve downloaded the turtle widget on my igoogle homepage, and usually waste numerous seconds each day “feeding” them and watching them swim around.

Given how much I love turtles, it’s only natural that I’d be compelled to learn about them. Instead of  tackling the whole genus, I’ve decided to focus on a few of my favorite species. First up, in case you couldn’t read the title of the post, is the soft shelled turtle. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But DJ, turtles have hard shells, that’s what makes them turtles,” but that’s what makes the soft shelled turtles so interesting.

Instead of hard, bony shells, the soft shelled turtles shells are made of thickened skin. While the area covering their body is relatively hard, the edges are soft and pliable. This makes the soft shell turtle more vulnerable to injury and attack than other turtles. To avoid these injuries the soft shell turtle usually spends its time buried under sand or mud at the bottom of lakes and rivers. The different types of soft shell turtles are usually distinguished by the color of their shells, which are different depending on the type of sand they’re most around.

Since they spend most of their time underwater, the turtles are able to absorb a large amount of oxygen through their skin. They also have the longest neck compared to its body of all turtles so that they can reach their heads above water to get air without disrupting itself from the sand of more shallow waters. They also have a long proboscis on their nose which allows them to reach further, and to keep their snouts above water when buried.

The turtles are mostly carnivorous, their diet consists mostly of aquatic invertebrates and crayfish, but some have been known to eat ducks which they grab from below.  They’ve also been known to feed on frogs, tadpoles, mollusks and worms. Since they are carnivorous, the soft shelled turtles have strong jaws. They can also be quite aggressive out of water and have been known to amputate human fingers.

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