Turtle paintings

Out kayaking with three friends, on a glorious sunny day, we saw these painted turtles, Chrysemys picta, living up to their names.

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They seem too exotically colored for Maine, but they are widespread, and unmistakeable. The adult females can be up to 10 inches long, though the ones I see are usually 6 or 7 inches.

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The skin under the edge of the shell is brilliant red and black, and it goes over the edge, as you can see here:

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I had never thought about how a turtle’s shell is attached to its body, but Wikipedia says: “The carapace is the dorsal (back), convex part of the shell structure of a turtle, consisting of the animal’s ossified ribs fused with the dermal bone. The spine and expanded ribs are fused .. to dermal plates beneath the skin to form a hard shell. Exterior to the skin the shell is covered by scutes, which are horny plates made of keratin that protect the shell from scrapes and bruises.”

Here is a close-up of where the skin meets the shell, and the transparent keratin plates:

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They have a distinctly prehistoric look:

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This one had something stuck on its nose, hence the cross-eyed expression:

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They eat aquatic vegetation and small insects, crustaceans, and fish. They hibernate in the mud at the bottom of the pond, and can live up to 55 years in the wild.

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