Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Western Painted Turtles at Wascana Lake

Hi, I'm a Western Painted Turtle - who are you?  © SB
When the Friends of Wascana Marsh held an outdoor nature festival in Wascana Park a couple of weeks ago, one highlight for me was the chance to see Western Painted Turtles on the shallow shore and mud along the edge of the lake.

Online images of Western Painted Turtles often show a tiny human hand holding an even tinier turtle.

But these guys were in the wild, far from hands and fingers, and looked about a foot long. (Sources say perhaps 10 inches; I had no ruler. They may be right.)

The scientific name for these beauties is Chrysemys picta bellii — chryso, from Greek for gold, and emys, for the same for freshwater tortoise. Picta? That's easy: Painted, or Latin for coloured. 

And while I really wanted bellii to refer to these Western Painted Turtles' very bella bellies, I was surprised (or do I mean, disappointed?) to learn that instead of beautiful, bellii apparently refers instead to zoologist Thomas Bell, a collaborator of Charles Darwin's. 

Hmm... I think I prefer my etymology... Or we could rename with a word merge: 

Chrysemys picta bella belly bellii. 

By any name, beautiful. But, like so much of life, only beautiful when you stop and look. First, you have to know that the turtles are there (and not carelessly destroy their habitat). Then, you have to look beyond their dull, sun-glazed upper shells to see the amazing markings of their skin and undersides.     

Group of Western Painted Turtles sunning on the west side
of the water, Wascana Lake 
© SB  

Side view, Western Painted Turtle.   © SB  

What are these?  Western Painted TurtleChrysemys picta bellii
Location: Wascana Marsh (the enclosed area, beside the lake), Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: May 12, 2012.  


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...