Wednesday, October 16, 2013

(More) Baby Turtle News: Endangered Keeled Box Turtle Hatches at the Tennessee Aquarium

Photo credit: Bill Hughes

This past Sunday, a Keeled Box Turtle (Cuora mouhotii) hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium.   The egg was the only viable one of a clutch of seven laid in July.  "The egg began hatching last Thursday, October 10th and the baby had fully emerged by the 13th.  The incubation time was 92 days at 82 degrees Fahrenheit," said Herpetologist Bill Hughes.  The baby weighs 0.41 oz (11.7 grams) and has a carapace length of 1.75 inches (4.45 cm). This is the second time this species has reproduced at the Aquarium. The first hatchling arrived in October of last year.

Keeled box turtles get their common names from the three raised ridges, or “keels” running the length of their shells. The edge of the shell has a number of sharp spikes near the tail. Their rugged appearance doesn’t match a tender start. This species tends to lay rather fragile eggs that are often crushed by the parents. 

Photo credit: Bill Hughes

This species is native to China, India, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam. Like many other Southeast Asian turtles, keeled box turtles have been over-collected in the wild for food and the pet trade and are classified as Endangered by the IUCN. Several conservation organizations are working to protect the remaining wild populations from illegal trade, while zoos and aquariums are working toward increasing assurance populations in human care. This assures that the species does not go extinct if these animals disappear in the wild. Currently the U.S. population of keeled box turtles at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums is less than 20 animals.

Photo credit: Bill Hughes

The Tennessee Aquarium has one of the largest turtle collections on public display with more than 500 individuals representing 75 species.  The hatchling and its parents are maintained off-exhibit but there are two other Keeled Box Turtles on exhibit in the Aquarium’s turtle gallery.

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