Turtles the Surprising Thing About Essay

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The Surprising Thing About Turtles

Almost everyone has seen a turtle, and not just on that also happens to be a pizza-eating Teenage Mutant Ninja. A lot of people keep small turtles as pets, both indoors inside terrariums or tanks and with some varieties outdoors in gardens and back yards. Larger turtles live in the zoo and, to a lesser and lesser extent, in the world's oceans and on the land. Lumbering and slow, it is perhaps amazing that the turtle has survived the eons despite seeming so ill-adapted to the pace of life and predators. Their famed shells do offer a large measure of protection, of course, but it hardly seems to counteract their extreme lack of ability to fend off a predator or even efficiently forage for food. Though it was a tortoise -- a close relative of the turtle -- that is known for beating the hare through his slow and steady approach to a foot race, turtles are generally associated with laziness and cowardice by today's hustle-and-bustle world. What you hear next might surprise you, then.

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Turtles have remained largely unchanged for huge stretches of evolutionary time not because they are lazy or cowardly, but rather because they are some of the most industrious, well-adapted, and efficient creatures nature has ever developed. The slow movement of turtles while walking on land, is directly related to the development of their shells in a complex evolutionary relationship of inheritance and divergence (Rieppel and Reisz 13-5). At the same time, though all turtles have these twin peculiarities that are the source of so much figurative derision, individual turtle species have adapted to fill very specific niches, combining unique traits ad a remarkable intelligence with one of the most efficient and complete security systems nature has ever developed (Pitman 194; Luschi et al. 528).

Essay on Turtles the Surprising Thing About Turtles Almost Assignment

The first truly remarkable thing about turtles is the sheer number of species that exist, all of them from he same common evolutionary descendants and with the same peculiar features that are unique to turtles (Rieppel and Resiz). There are species of turtle that full grown could still sit easily on an adult hand, and others that way hundreds of pounds and would crush a man who tried to hold one single-handedly (or even double-handedly, for that matter). The creatures most people tend to think of when they picture a turtle -- the slow plodding creature on a dusty road -- is actually a tortoise, and though related to turtles they are certainly not the same thing. Turtles don't last long on dry dusty roads; they need water and in fact many species live in aquatic environments almost exclusively.

Ponds and wide still places along rivers are popular places to go looking for turtles, as Ricky -- a self-proclaimed turtle expert who has himself caught over a hundred turtles over the years, he estimates, both to keep and to sell as pets -- tells me when we meet. "First," he says, "the trick is knowing where to wait and being able to do it. The rest is easy" (Hortlemeyer). Somehow, Ricky appears to be making things sound easier than they really are, but he's certainly right about the waiting part. Turtles are notoriously shy creatures -- the can withdraw so easily, it's hard to coax them out of their shells...you can insert your own turtle pun here. If you can keep still enough with the proper bait out near the waters edge, though, and if you're lucky and patient enough, a turtle might just come your way (Hortlemeyer).

The small types of turtles that can be caught in the rivers and ponds of America have all of the basic turtle elements -- shells that are much flatter than those imagined (again, there's that tortoise intrusion), yet despite seeming almost fragile in their hardness these shells, as Ricky offered to demonstrate (I firmly declined), can really withstand a great deal of pressure (Hortlemeyer). Predators get to know pretty quickly that there's no real meal to be had with a turtle, at least not one that's worth the effort. And when it comes to finding food, turtles might be inefficient on the ground (though I am assured they are surprisingly quick and evasive when trying not to get caught), but in the water is another story entirely (Hortlemeyer; Pitman 199; Luschi et al.). What they have truly evolved for is not the awkward swaying gait that they are known for on solid ground, but their far more graceful and maneuverable motions under water (Rieppel and Resiz 18). Without losing any of the safety of their tank-like armor, turtles under water can evade predators and find food with a still somewhat ponderous but graceful and powerful glide unavailable on land.

This is made apparent when Ricky leads me to his turtle tanks, where turning still evidently causes some consternations to the submersed turtles, but straight movement is affected easily and seemingly without effort (Hortlemeyer). They are still slow, it is true, but there is no sense of the awkwardness that these turtles possess on land; they are clearly in their element in the water. Even in turning, where the short and stiff legs of the boxer and snapper turtles that Ricky has in his various tanks show evidence of similar issues to what turtles experience coordination-wise on land, it is clear that the bodies and appendages of turtles are far more suited for a life aquatic than one that takes place on the far more unforgiving and barrier-ridden surface of terra firma (Hortlemeyer; Rieppel and Reisz 17).

This is made even more apparent when on turns one's attention away from these smaller members of the turtle family that inhabit the continents and towards the larger varieties that exist between them. Sea turtles generally only come onto land to lay their eggs; the first test of survival comes with the crawl to the sea from recently-broken egg to the lapping waves of the sea without being picked off by one of the many sea birds or other predators that wait for these occasions, and only to start the process over again will these creatures ever drag themselves out of the sea again (Pitman 194: Luschi et al. 531). Almost all traces of foot and leg are gone in these larger species -- or perhaps never evolved in the first place -- and instead both the front and rear appendages resemble large flippers which the turtle can use to propel themselves across thousands of miles of ocean like great ships, floating silently and powerfully both under the water and along the surface (Luschi et al.; Pitman).

This leads to one of the most humorous and ironic facts concerning sea turtles. Despite having tried to pick them off in the moments following their birth when the infant turtles were at their most vulnerable, many sea birds have the audacity to use the turtles as roosts in their own cross-continent journeys (Pitman). Large floating turtles, like other pieces of floating debris or "flotsam" in the ocean, also attract schools of small fish beneath them, presumably because they offer some protection, and these fish in turn attract other sorts of marine life -- sea birds, among them (Pitman 199). In essence, tehn, sea turtles form micro-ecosystems around themselves, and the omnivorous turtles certainly benefit as much from the arrangement as anyone else -- and a great deal more than some!

One of the most amazing and least understood abilities of the sea turtle is their nearly impeccable sense of direction. Many animals appear to have a homing instinct, and there is a great deal of evidence that suggest schools of certain shrimp and certain species of bird use the Earth's electromagnetic field in some way to help them know where they are and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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