Monday, May 26, 2014

Hoosier Alligator

This is a common snapping turtle that Lily noticed in a puddle in the road.    Normally we leave turtles alone, but we didn't want it getting hit by a car and it was pretty well camouflaged in the mud, so we moved it.

It was unhappy.
As soon as we disturbed it, it demonstrated why they are named snapping turtles.  Keep your fingers and toes away from these guys - they're quick and will jump at the target. Not that a turtle will ever win any long jumping competitions, but still.  

In the ensuing melee, it got flipped on its back and it immediately stuck out its thick neck and used it as leverage to flip itself over.   It took all of 3 seconds to right itself. 
They're as close as we get to alligators in the midwest, though we also have alligator snapping turtles, which are said to be very rare in Indiana.   I saw one once a decade or so ago, crossing the road near a creek in Hendricksville, Indiana.   It was a foot and a half across - huge! - and from a distance, coming down the the road, I swore it was an alligator.   Alligator snappers have ridged backs and long ridged tails.   Very prehistoric looking. 

The wiki page on the common snapping turtle is full of interesting bits.   Here's one about the snapping turtle in politics.

The common snapper was the central feature of a famous American political cartoon. Published in 1808 in protest at the Jeffersonian Embargo Act of 1807, the cartoon depicted a snapping turtle, jaws locked fiercely to an American trader who was attempting to carry a barrel of goods onto a British ship. The trader was seen whimsically uttering the words "Oh! this cursed Ograbme" ("embargo" spelled backwards). This piece is widely considered a pioneering work within the genre of the modern political cartoon.

Who knew?

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