October 24, 2014
- as seen by -Russell L. Burke
Come winter, this box turtle's heart will stop, and it will freeze solid. But that’s not the end of its story.
Eastern box turtles overwinter partly buried in the ground, and here in New York that means they experience deep freezes most winters. Even the hatchlings freeze solid. But not to worry. Because of their amazing physiology, the turtles are well adapted to the cold and will thaw to live another summer.
Wildlife Conservation Society Chief Veterinarian Paul Calle surgically implanted a special data logger into this box turtle (which already had an external radio transmitter); it’s part of a study I’m working on with Brookhaven National Laboratory scientist Tim Green. The logger will record the turtle’s heart rate and temperature through the winter and, for the first time, we’ll be able to see what goes on inside the box turtle during hibernation. With this, we can better understand their interesting adaptations to our winters.