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Mangrove Terrapin

Mangrove Terrapin

Malaclemys terrapin                                             Photo Fiona Sunquist ©


The Mangrove terrapin is found mostly on the mangrove-covered islands of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. It does not occur north of the Seven Mile Bridge on US Highway 1 that runs through the Florida Keys. Very little is known about the biology and behavior of this species.

They are carnivorous and feed on small bivalves, snails and dead fish. They are extremely cryptic and spend the day buried in mud. Their tracks are found in shallow ponds in the mangroves and they probably forage at night. They have salt glands near the eye to excrete excess salt. They are more often found in Black Mangrove than Red mangrove, and they have a unique way of moving through the dense thickets of Black Mangrove pneumatophores. They tilt their bodies sideways and pull themselves along at a 90-degree angle.

The remains of Mangrove terrapins have been found in the stomachs of American Crocodiles and sharks, and Bald Eagles have been seen feeding on sub-adult turtles.



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