2017-07-20 / Nature

Save the Bay Turtle Exhibit

At the Save the Bay Exploration Center, there are eight Rhode Island native turtles on display from five different species including an endangered Northern Diamondback terrapin. Every turtle in the aquarium was rescued for reasons including injuries, displacement and confiscation from those who illegally possessed them. A new snapping turtle exhibit opened July 19 with a 590-gallon tank filled with swampy habitat including driftwood sculptures where the rescued snapper will reside until it is fully grown.

Northern Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin): These turtles live exclusively in salt marshes. In Rhode Island there are only two populations left when historically terrapins populated most of the saltmarshes in the state. On a positive note, until last year there was only one known population in Rhode Island until a second one was discovered. The locations of these turtles are kept secret to help preserve their populations.

Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta): Painted turtles are among the most common turtle species in Rhode Island. They live in freshwater ponds, lakes and streams. They are commonly known as sun turtles because they enjoy basking in the warm sun during summer.

Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata): These turtles are among the less common in the state. Spotted turtles are one of the smallest species of turtles in North America and are found in swamps, forests and freshwater marshes. These little reptiles can live up to 150 years.

Common Stinkpot Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus): Also known as the musk turtle, the stinking Jim and skillpot turtle, this is the only musk turtle north of “Dixie.” Musk turtles get their name from their defense mechanism: when they’re captured they exude a musky secretion from two glands located on either side of their body. These R.I. natives can be described as bottom crawlers, taking leisurely strolls along the bottom of streams and lakes and rarely coming on land.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina): This is the largest year-round native in Rhode Island, reaching weights of up to 75 pounds. A few distinguishing features include their dinosaur-like plates of armor all over their bodies, a very long tail, and an incomplete lower shell called a plastron. Historically, snapping turtle shells were mounted on sticks by Native Americans and used as rattles. The snapping turtle is a mutant possessing seven toes on its front left hand, called a polydactylism.

Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium, 175 Memorial Blvd., open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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