Terrapins in the Wild
The term “Terrapin” (Pond Turtles) is used by the people of United Kingdom to denote the pet turtles especially the Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin).
They are small, shy and harmless aquatic creatures which belong to the family Emydidae and are called Chelonians.
Around 8,000 years ago, terrapins were native to United Kingdom. Now they are abundant along the eastern coastal region (Atlantic coast) of United States.
The largest population of terrapins are said to be found in the rivers and the still waters in the Southern England and Midlands. They are also widely distributed in various countries of Asia.
Terrapins are cold-blooded reptiles with shells, inhabiting the brackish water of widely located coastal areas, creeks and shallow marshes for their entire life. But the soft shell terrapins found in Southeast Asia survives in fresh water.
Categorically though they are reptiles but characteristically they are amphibians which need both land and water to survive. Most of the time, they like to stay in water except while basking in the sun or laying eggs.
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For millions of years, undaunted female terrapins take the pride to crawl down and dig a nest in the sandy shore during every summer to deposit their eggs. Hatchlings may not be produced unless eggs are incubated at around 25°C for about 60 days.
Diamondback terrapins are named so because of their decorated shell with bright rings and ridges forming diamond patterns on it. Seven subspecies of Diamondback terrapins are identified so far, which vary distinctly in morphology and behavioral characteristics.
In the wild, small baby terrapins are approximately equal to the size of a 50 pence coin. After emerging out of the shell they crawl to the nearest water body. Adults can grow up to 40 cm and weigh up to 2 kgs. Their life span can be as long as 30 years in the favorable environment.
They are carnivores, but in practice they are omnivores and love to eat worms, fish, snails, small animals and some vegetations and fruits also. The shell and the efficient sense of smell and sight are their defensive mechanism against a predator. In the winter they hibernate and again become active when the surrounding gets warm.
Terrapins are prey of many natural predators including human beings who in some cultures consider them as culinary delicacies. This has pushed these hapless creatures on the verge of extinction. Fortunately, ongoing efforts by various organizations are showing positive results regarding their population to some extent.