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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.