I’m lucky to live on the swampy end of a small lake. Across the road from my house is an even smaller vernal pond–a temporary pool that usually dries up in August. The traffic on the road this time of year is busy with turtles and frogs traveling from pond to lake. We keep an eye out and try to move our travelers across the road before cars zoom past (pro-tip: move turtles in the direction that they are headed, or they will turn around and march back into the road!)
This week we’ve seen several painted turtle hatchlings, each about the size of a quarter. Painted turtles lay their eggs on land in nests that they dig in late spring or early summer. Baby turtles hatch in late summer, but often stay in their nests through the winter. Now they’re scurrying to the lake. And I do mean scurrying–they try to run out of your hand if you airlift them across the road.
I photographed a couple after moving them to safety, and was surprised to see an egg tooth. An egg tooth (also called a carbuncle) is a hard scale sticking out from its upper jaw. The internets tell me that a painted turtle’s egg tooth usually falls off a few days after the turtle hatches. But if it spends the winter in its nest, its egg tooth is still there when it emerges in spring.
Why, you might ask, do turtles (and birds and other reptiles) have egg teeth? Here’s an acrostic poem with the answer:
Emerge from your egg–
Get ready. Get set.
Tap, tap, tap with your sharp, hard tooth
On your leathery, plethery shell.
Over and over. Tap, tap, scratch
Til you puncture it. You’re ready. You’re set.
Looking for today’s Poetry Friday Round-Up? Head over to Jama’s Alphabet Soup for all The Words of Poems!