Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Species of Clam-Eating Map Turtle Discovered

Photo courtesy: Care2

U.S. Geological Survey scientists discovered a unique small clam-eating turtle species in Louisiana and Mississippi. It lives only in the Pearl River. It is a Map turtle and predictably is named the Pearl River Map Turtle. Its scientific name is Graptemys pearlensis. Previously it had been confused with the Pascagoula Map Turtle.

One of the researchers, Josh Ennen, said, “When people think about discovery and new species, they think of rainforests, or unexplored and isolated countries. Coming from southern Mississippi, I basically found this turtle in my own backyard.” It is thought some turtles evolved to live in specific rivers. Ennen found it strange that the Pascagoula map turtle was believed to be in both the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers. So he started investigating the turtles in the Pearl River. He noticed subtle differences, and called in another researcher who had studied the turtles previously. Jeff Lovich worked on re-examining his map turtle data, and reported back to Ennen. Lovich said, “Josh asked me to reanalyze my data on color and the way the turtles look to combine with the genetic data.” Genetic differences confirmed that there were two distinct map turtle species.

The Pearl River species lives in freshwater rivers and streams. The males are smaller than females, and they don’t eat clams like the females. The females can be nearly twice as big, and can open clams with their jaws.

Via Care2

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