Happy World Turtle Day! We’re shellebrating our fine reptilian friends with some turtle fun-facts.
Did you know:
- There are approximately 290 species of turtles and tortoises that inhabit oceans, fresh waters, and land environments.
- Turtles are characterized by two broad bony shells that enclose and protect the body and jaws without teeth that form a beak-like structure.
- Once they enter the sea after hatching, male Hawksbill sea turtles never leave it, and females come out only to lay their eggs.
- Did you know the Museum is helping to preserve the iconic Galápagos tortoise Lonesome George?
- For centuries, ships would load up on Galápagos tortoises to provide fresh meat during sea voyages, one tortoise could provide 200 pounds of meat.
- The Leatherback is the largest turtle, reaching a length of almost 6 feet, while smaller species, such as the Bog turtle, reach a maximum shell length of 4 inches.
- Did you know that two brother African spur-thighed tortoises live in the Museum? Meet Hermes and Mud!
- Softshell turtles, genus Trionyx, have gill-like filaments in their pharynx that serve as respiratory organs.
Stop by the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians to learn more.
Searching for Reptiles on Ocean Islands
At one time, the Seychelles and the Mascarene Islands were home to the world’s richest diversity of oceanic island reptile fauna. But with the arrival of humans several centuries ago, deforestation and other environmental degradation decimated reptile populations.
In January 2013, Museum Curator Chris Raxworthy traveled to these islands in search of chameleons, geckos, and skinks. He hoped to rediscover lizards known only from bone material and specimens collected in the 19th and early 20th century.
See footage from the Constantine S. Niarchos Expedition.
In the course of his work studying the reptiles and amphibians of Madagascar, Associate Curator Chris Raxworthy often refers to a classic 19th-century herpetological text: Erpétologie générale, by André-Marie-Constant Duméril, of the Paris Museum of Natural History.
It’s a work that Raxworthy says is quite important, so he jumped at the chance to highlight it as part of the recently released book Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library.
Read on here.