Diamonds in the Marsh: A Natural History of the Diamondback Terrapin

Overview

She's the mascot for the University of Maryland's sports teams (their slogan: Fear the Turtle) and her ancestors were nearly driven to extinction by Victorians who indulged in turtle soup. But as she buries herself in the mud every night to sleep, the diamondback terrapin knows none of this. The size of a dinner plate, she can live at least forty years and is the only turtle in North America who can live in brackish and salty waters.

The diamondback terrapin is named for the ...

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Overview

She's the mascot for the University of Maryland's sports teams (their slogan: Fear the Turtle) and her ancestors were nearly driven to extinction by Victorians who indulged in turtle soup. But as she buries herself in the mud every night to sleep, the diamondback terrapin knows none of this. The size of a dinner plate, she can live at least forty years and is the only turtle in North America who can live in brackish and salty waters.

The diamondback terrapin is named for the beautiful concentric rings on its shell. Its habitat ranges from Cape Cod to Corpus Christi, Texas, with seven subspecies identified along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Several diamondback populations have been the subjects of ecological studies in recent years, but most of that information was buried in scientific literature and various state and federal reports-until now.

Synthesizing all known research on this remarkable animal, Diamonds in the Marsh is the first full-scale natural history of the diamondback terrapin. Focusing on the northern diamondback, Barbara Brennessel examines its evolution, physiology, adaptations, behavior, growth patterns, life span, genetic diversity, land use, reproduction, and early years. She also discusses its relationship to humans, first as an important food source from colonial times through the nineteenth century, and more recently as a cultural icon, frequently depicted in Native American art and design. She concludes with a look at contemporary hazards to the terrapin, and urges continued study of this marvelous creature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Environmentalists, ecologists and marine biologists will delight in this meticulously detailed but highly readable look at the only North American turtle species that can tolerate the ‘fresh water, salt water, and everything in between’” —Publishers Weekly

“A serious treatment of the natural history of one of the most beloved creatures of the Eastern Seaboard... well illustrated with photographs.”—Natural New England Magazine

"A comprehensive natural history such as Diamonds in the Marsh is an invaluable tool in the study and conservations of a species, and can provide a solid foundation for future research, conservation, and management decisions. Brennessel effectively pulls together the bulk of literature on the diamondback and communicates it to the reader in a generally clear, uncluttered fashion so as to make it not only a resource for researchers, but also an interesting read for reptile aficionados."—Herpetological Review

“Useful for anyone interested in coastal species or reptiles.”—Northeastern Naturalist

Publishers Weekly
Environmentalists, ecologists and marine biologists will delight in this meticulously detailed but highly readable look at the only North American turtle species that can tolerate the "fresh water, salt water, and everything in between" of its home off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Brennessel, a professor of biology at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, argues that the diamondback terrapin's importance stems not only from its singular status-and that its beautifully detailed shell is a "one-of-a-kind evolutionary item"-but also from the threat to its existence by the increasing erosion of its natural habitat. She documents the terrapin's natural history by collecting, for the first time, crucial records and recent scientific studies that were previously found only in scattered scientific journals and reports. Although this specialized subject matter may not appeal to a mass audience, Brennessel offers the nonprofessional reader a wealth of fascinating information, from how the annual activity cycle of terrapins is dictated by water temperature to the quality and quantity of coastal zones needed to maintain and protect younger terrapins between their hatching and maturation, a relatively unstudied "black hole in terrapin life history." Photos. (Apr. 28) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584656920
  • Publisher: University Press of New England
  • Publication date: 4/30/2008
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

BARBARA BRENNESSEL is Professor of Biology at Wheaton College. Trained as a biochemist, she is a summer resident of Wellfleet, Cape Cod. She shifted her research interests to the diamondback terrapin after spending the summer of 2001 researching the species with the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
A Decidedly Unique Creature
A Coast-Hugging Turtle
Reproduction: Insurance for Species Survival
The Lost Years
A Clear and Present Danger for the Most Celebrated of American Reptiles
Learning from the Past; Peering into the Future
Bibliography
Index
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