Happy Chesapeake Bay Week!

The nation’s largest estuary is home to a variety of species, including Maryland’s state reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

Published June 06, 2018

Chesapeake Bay Week brings awareness to the importance of the Chesapeake Bay and its many iconic species, including the diamondback terrapin.

 

The diamondback terrapin, the state reptile of Maryland, gets its name from the diamond-shaped markings on its top shell, which ranges in color from gray to nearly black. No two individual diamondback terrapins look exactly alike in pattern and coloration. Their large webbed feet make them strong swimmers, allowing them to navigate the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Unlike other turtles, diamondback terrapins hibernate during the winter months. Most terrapins do this by burying themselves in mud at the bottom of tidal creeks, which begs the question: how do they breathe when submerged in mud? Due to their low metabolism and inactivity, terrapins do not need large amounts of oxygen in this state. They also absorb dissolved oxygen from the water through their mouth and tail opening, known as a cloaca.

Diamondback terrapins aren’t the only iconic animal found in the Bay. Oysters are another well-known species, and these filter-feeding mollusks are incredibly beneficial to the health of the ecosystem. Adult oysters can filter approximately 50 gallons of water per day! Along with oysters and terrapins, blue crabs are among the most well-known species in the Chesapeake Bay, where they can be found hiding in underwater grasses that provide a place to molt, feed on prey and hide from predators.

Learn about our work to restore critical Chesapeake Bay habitat!

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