Eastern Box Turtles

These turtles have hinged shells that allow them to completely box themselves in. Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) live in the eastern half of the United States. They have great longevity reaching ages up to 100 years, and their age can be determined by growth rings on their shells.

Eastern box turtles are medium-sized turtles with variable color combinations but usually with brown and black colors. A yellow and orange pattern of lines and blotches accompanies the brownish color of the shell. Their colors provide camouflage in deciduous forest environments. They are terrestrial turtles that prefer diverse forest regions with a moist floor, but not covered with water. They have webbed feet, short limbs, and a horned beak.

Turtles are slow-moving reptiles, and their slow crawl can make them susceptible to predators. Box turtles have an effective safety tool when in danger. They can close their plastron (the flat bottom of the shell) by pulling the hinged areas towards the carapace (the dome-shaped top of the shell. This action seals their shell for protection and conceals them from predators.

There are several interesting things about their shells that make eastern box turtles unique. Females are born with a flat plastron whereas the males are born with concaved plastrons. This design allows the animals to work effectively in the mating process. Eastern box turtles are permanently attached to their shells through their fused rib cage. Their shells have the incredible capacity to repair on their own when damaged. This process is possible because keratin (the protein found in fingernails, claws, and horns) grows under the damaged area. When the healing process is over, the damaged area falls off and reveals the new cells.

God cares about all animals big and small. The eastern box turtle is an excellent example of God’s design in the little things.
© Tyler Earnst

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