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Nature Notebook – Turtle Necks

Tis the season for wearing turtlenecks. The human version is not nearly as remarkable as the reptile version.

A turtle’s shell provides a good deal of protection but only if the owner can store its vital parts inside. A turtle can pull its head into the shell by folding the long neck, either to the side or into a vertical S-shape. The folding causes the loose skin to bunch up which, apparently, some clothing designer thought would be a stylish look.

The Nature Center’s Florida softshell turtle constantly displays this ability. When he utilizes the basking area, he can stretch his flexible neck four to five inches. If he senses someone nearby he quickly retracts the neck so that only his formidable biting mouth is visible.

The length of the softshell’s neck allows it to stay submerged while breathing at the surface. Thus, only a small part of its body is apparent to any predators hunting from above. It also utilizes the length when it is the hunter by hiding under sand or mud and shooting out to nab unsuspecting fish.