Hi friends – Cornelius’ friend, the red-eared slider turtle, here. Thanks for coming back to read more of our blog series! Today I will be sharing fun facts about where I live, what I like to eat and how I get ready for the winter season. Stay tuned for more posts from Cornelius and his friends!
I spend most of my time in the Frog Pond, but you can sometimes spot me in the trout ponds or and millrace at the park. When I need to take a break from the water, I like to step out onto dry land and bask in the sun for a bit. In fact, that’s why the park’s summer campers named the big rock by the Frog Pond boardwalk “Turtle Rock”!
I’m an omnivore – in case you’re unfamiliar with that term, it means I eat both plants and animals. I snack on aquatic plants like elodea and duckweed, plus minnows, snails, aquatic insects, and tadpoles. I also help keep the pond clean by scavenging dead animals.
Unlike some of my other friends at the park who spend the winter hibernating, I do something a little different! I brumate instead! Let me explain! Brumation is similar to hibernation but is specific only to reptiles and amphibians. Like animals that hibernate, I’ll also enter a state of “deep sleep” where I undergo the same process of inactivity and low body temperature, and my heart rate, metabolic rate, and respiratory rate drops.
When the temperatures go below freezing, like it does in our area from roughly December through March, my favorite foods can be hard to find. Instead of spending lots of energy and time looking for food, I just slow way down. When it gets really cold like it does in our area with freezing temperatures, it’s not safe for me to do my daily activities; therefore, I hold out until the temperatures warm up in the springtime.
We red-eared sliders begin brumating when the temperatures drop to around 50˚F (10˚ Celsius), but the exact temperature for individual turtles depends on age and the climate where they live. While I’m brumating, I don’t eat or poop. I stay completely still for about three months, and my breathing, heart rate, and metabolism slow to the bare minimum.
At this time, I breathe through my butt – this is called “cloacal respiration”! I get my oxygen from the water by moving around in the water and allowing it to cover my body to therefore reach my blood vessels. My butt has a lot of blood vessels so this is the most effective way for me to breathe during the winter months.
Thanks for reading my blog! Stay tuned for more posts. See you at the Grist Mill!