Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta
Turtles and other reptiles breathe oxygen into their lungs through their nostrils and mouth. Can you see their pointy noses sticking out of the water to breathe as they swim?
Painted turtles are small hard-shelled reptiles that live across North America. Typically, they eat plants, insects, and sometimes small fish. These turtles usually lay their eggs in nests within several hundred feet of water, in sandy soils exposed to the sun. Oddly enough, painted turtles seem to prefer living in waterways polluted with fertilizer runoff, because vegetation grows more easily. However, they suffer from habitat loss when water levels fall or shorelines get destroyed. Studies suggest that wetland habitats are expected to warm up and decrease in size as global temperatures increase.
Cold-blooded reptiles cannot regulate their own body temperature; they stay cool by heading to deeper water and shaded areas, and they warm up in the sun. Can you spot any turtles sunning on a rock, log, or dock? Try to catch a peek under their shells to see why they’re called painted turtles!
Female painteds tend to lay eggs only when the temperature is exactly right — specifically between 84-86ºF. As such, global warming of even 2ºF can force them to nest weeks earlier than normal. On top of this, the sex of turtle offspring is determined by air temperature around the egg. Warmer temperatures of just a couple degrees lead to mostly female offspring, while colder temperatures lead to mostly male offspring. What do you think will happen to this species if our planet stays on track for a 3-12ºF increase in temperature by 2100?