Northern Diamondback Terrapin

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While visiting Maryland this Summer, I came across a reptile that I haven’t seen in quite some time. Its common name refers to the diamond pattern on top of its shell, though its overall pattern and coloration can vary greatly.

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Females tend to be larger than males and have a shell length of 6 to 9 inches, while males are typically 4 to 5-1/2 inches. Their beak is typically light in color and is often white.

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The Diamondback Terrapin is the only turtle that inhabits coastal marshes with brackish water (a mix of salt and fresh water) for its entire life.

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This reptile mainly eats mollusks and crustaceans, including snails, fiddler crabs and mussels. They are usually most active during high tide, when the marshes they inhabit are often flooded.

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Diamondback Terrapins were once used as a main food source, first by Native Americans and then by European settlers. From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s they were hunted so extensively that they almost faced extinction.

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During the early 1930s, when terrapin numbers decreased, the popularity of this turtle as a food item faded. Its populations have since rebounded due to the lack of harvesting pressure. The Northern Diamondback Terrapin is Maryland’s State Reptile.

Third Eye Herp

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