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Young terrapins need fresh water to thrive
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Young terrapins need fresh water to thrive

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Terrapin is an Algonquian Indian word for a turtle that lives along the East Coast. They spend their lives moving between salty ocean waters and fresh water.

A recent study by University of Georgia researchers proved how important fresh water is to the turtles when they are young.

The scientists took two separate groups of terrapins, providing fresh water to some and only salty water to the other group. The ones that had fresh water ate more and grew faster than the terrapins with salty water.

When fresh water was given to the salt-water-only terrapins, they eagerly drank it up. When it was all gone, they kept returning to the small pool looking for more, showing their ability to learn.

The study proved the young turtles can survive in marshes that have very salty water only if they can also find fresh water. It also demonstrated the turtles may be in trouble if sea levels rise or dry spells occur making it harder for them to reach fresh water.

The research was cut short so the salty terrapins could get a “spa treatment” of shrimp, turtle food pellets and more fresh water. Once they were all refreshed, the turtles were released back to the wild.

Adult terrapin lay eggs on land above the water. If salt water covers the nest the eggs will die. As they grow older, the animals seem to be more tolerant to salty water.

Terrapins are pretty small, with females growing shells up to 11 inches while male shells are about half as big. Despite their small size, they can live up to 30 years.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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