Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UAB Research Team Working to Keep Terrapin Turtle Off Endangered Species List

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researchers exploring strategies for conserving the Diamondback Terrapin along Alabama's Dauphin Island coastline are working to keep the once-celebrated turtle off the endangered species list.

The Diamondback Terrapin has been a national delicacy, a source of state taxes and a casualty of commercial development and victim of new predators, but now its prospects are improved by a UAB-based turtle hatchery that may accelerate the growth of the fledgling population.

In 2006, a UAB research team began its examination of conservation and recovery strategies for the Diamondback Terrapin in Alabama. After three years, biology professors Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., and Ken Marion, Ph.D., and doctoral student Andy Coleman concluded that the species was fighting for survival.

"This spring we began the captive rearing of the terrapin, opening up a hatchery at UAB," Coleman said. "With almost each weekly trip to Dauphin Island, we return to Birmingham with a new clutch of eggs. If we did not rescue them, raccoons would destroy as many as 90 percent of the eggs nesting naturally along the wetland beaches."

Commercial growth in the Dauphin Island area in recent decades has constricted the turtle population's habitat. New predators like raccoons and threats like crab traps also have been introduced into the environment. All of these factors have driven the animals to near-endangered species status, and losing the species could badly damage the local ecosystem by throwing the food chain out of whack. Terrapin are voracious snail eaters who use their strong jaws to break through snail shells.

"Our work along the Cedar Point marsh on Dauphin Island started with research into the threats posed by natural predators and man-made devices like crab traps, which can catch the turtles and lead to drowning," Wibbels said.

Wibbels said the early research efforts showed a population on the brink, a view confirmed in the 2004 Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource's book Alabama Wildlife, in which the Diamondback terrapin was listed as a highest conservation concern.

Wibbels said the research quickly moved into its next phase: recovery of the terrapin population. Coleman, Wibbels and Marion identified strategies for decreasing predation and began field testing terrapin excluder devices (TEDs) on crab traps to protect the turtle population from becoming ensnared in the traps.

Coleman said increasing the turtle population is as important as reducing habitat threats. In the UAB hatchery, Diamondback Terrapin eggs are hatched in incubators, and the turtles are returned to Dauphin Island when they are large enough to avoid attacks by birds and raccoons.

"Their natural instincts are amazing," Wibbels said. "When we return the young terrapins to the Cedar Point marsh area, they immediately head to marshland and don't give the Gulf Coast a second look - it's just an amazing example of how their instincts are hard-wired for their particular habitat."

Heading into the early 1900s, Diamondback terrapin stew was considered a top U.S. delicacy. In 1881, the New York Times reported that demand for the stew was met by a Diamondback Terrapin farm on Dauphin Island's Cedar Point. The farm was reported to be the second largest in the country for raising the Diamondback Terrapin with as many as 25,000 terrapins calling the spot home at the operation's peak. Around this time, the farm annually shipped 10,000 terrapin from Alabama to the U.S. Northeast, selling a dozen terrapin for as much as $90.

Famed biologist Archie Carr named the Diamondback terrapin the most expensive turtle in the world, pound for pound, in his 1952 Handbook of Turtles.

"To tell you how historically important the species was to the state's economy, the state legislature actually enacted a terrapin sales tax in 1923 to generate revenue," Wibbels said. "This is why we've acted so decisively; we did not want to see a part of Alabama history lost."

Funding support for this research has been provided by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Wildlife Grants Program and Alabama Center for Estuarine Studies.

About the UAB Department of Biology

The UAB Department of Biology is a dynamic academic partnership that provides a broad-based graduate and undergraduate curriculum. Most members of the graduate faculty have research specialties in comparative biochemistry, physiology and eco-physiology of aquatic organisms. A second, important department research focus is environmental microbiology.

Andrew Hayenga | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>