Atlantic coast from Massachusetts south to Florida and along the Gulf coast from the Carolinas to Texas.
Marshes bordering quiet salt or brackish tidal waters, mud flats, shallow bays, coves and tidal estuaries.
Diamondback Terrapins are unique eye-catching turtles. They are the only brackish water turtle in Massachusetts and remain on the threatened species list. With bodies and shells of contrasting colors, their name comes from the diamond-shaped designs on their greenish-brown shells. Their skin is usually green or brown, often marked with black and white color patterns.
The adult female is larger than the male, ranging from 6 to 9 inches long. The male is 4 to 6 inches long. The male, though, has a longer tail. The average male weighs a little over a pound, while large females have been known to weight more than 4 pounds.
Diamondback terrapins have webbed feet, adapted for swimming, and sharp claws that allow them to climb up muddy banks. The Northern Diamondback Terrapin is an inhabitant of the salt marsh. Females nest in dry, sandy areas, such as un-vegetated dunes.
Like most turtles, diamondbacks are carnivorous, feeding on marine worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish, although they occasionally eat bits of salt marsh grass.
During winter, terrapins hibernate on the bottom of the estuary or in marsh channels. Mating occurs in the spring and in the early summer, the female terrapins dig nests above the high-tide level in sand dunes on barrier islands, river banks, or the sandy margin of the marsh.
A clutch may contain anywhere from 4 to 18 light pink eggs. The incubation period ranges from 60 to more than 100 days, depending on temperature. The newly-hatched terrapins are only about an inch long.
Young terrapins may live upstream in brackish creeks for several years, eventually moving down into the salt marshes. They grow rapidly in the first couple years of life and reach adult size at about 5 or 6 years of age for males and 8 to 10 years for females
Did You Know?
The Buttonwood Park Zoo participates in a conservation project to increase the Diamondback population along Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod.