Little Turtles and Big Tadpoles
May 26, 2021
Hatchling sliders, yellow-bellied and the subspecific red-eared sliders, have been seen both heading towards and in the water of our wetlands. Once young aquatic turtles are in the pond they can often be seen hauled out on a fallen branch basking in the sun. But you have to look carefully, they’re small, about a half dollar sized.
The tiny turtles have spent some 250 – 270 days in the nest excavated in the local clay soil and expertly refilled and camouflaged by their mother last spring or summer. After nest duty, the parent headed back to the water leaving the eggs and subsequent hatchlings to themselves. The following spring (now) when the temperature warmed sufficiently to emerge, the hatchlings dug their way out and headed off in search of the nearest water.
They don’t always go in the right direction. I happened to be on the scene as three young sliders emerged from their subterranean nest, they all marched off in different directions. So far this season, many errant turtles have been picked up and escorted to the wetlands by both museum guests and staff.
Like aquatic turtles, frog parents have little or nothing to do with their offspring once eggs are deposited. Bullfrogs lay eggs on the water’s surface in sheets or films that can be 3 feet in diameter with 10,000 – 20,000 eggs.
In our area, the bullfrog tadpoles may take a year to mature and morph into adult frogs. The frog eggs laid this summer will become tadpoles in about a week, overwinter, and become frogs by next summer.
It’s at this time of year when we see the very large (some 5” – 6” long) tadpoles break the water’s surface and suck air into their developing lungs as they transition into frogs. Legs begin to appear on either side of the base of their tail which itself begins to disappear through a process called apoptosis, programmed cell death.
Highly adaptable, bullfrogs are common at just about every body of water across the state.