Thursday, August 30, 2012

Everyone Likes Turtles!

I'm back in my college town again, waiting for school to start and be over at the same time. I don't know what my feelings are on this semester. I don't want to go to school and get all that oh-so-familiar stress built up. Still, I'm excited about what's in store. A new school year yields new people, places, and things. Especially new experiences. Of course, new experiences can't always be positive, but it's life. I just got to roll with the punches.
If you've read on one of my earlier blogs, you may remember my vivid description of my trip to St. Maarten, specifically the sea turtle experience. If you haven't done this, I will save you the time and recap: Went to St. Maarten. Snorkeled in a marine wildlife refuge. Saw 2 turtles. Screamed underwater. One swam away. Left one sea turtle. Swam with it. Life almost complete. Now all I need is to swim with a whale. And a shark. And a whale shark. Bam. Story over. I'm a pretty dang good story teller, aren't I?

The Loggerhead Sea Turtle.
Now that you're caught up with that experience in my life, we can now move on. Sea turtles. Gotta love 'em. They're cute as babies, and even when they're adults. They are herbivores, so you don't see them mercilessly slaughtering a seal with razor sharp teeth like a shark. That's a plus. And they swim so gracefully. It's like they're in slow motion. Or in a dream. And, come on, they're turtles. Everyone likes turtles. If you don't like turtles, you've got a problem. I'm not talking about the marine turtles' crazy cousins, the snapping turtle. Now they are ugly and mean. But the Loggerheads, the Hawksbills, the Greens...they're like the popular kids of Turtle High School.
On a more serious note, sea turtles have some cool attributes. First off, if you had read more into my post I mentioned earlier about my St. Maarten trip, you may have read that these creatures are air-breathers. They aren't like their fishy friends who have gills and such. 
If you've never ever watched the Crocodile Hunter or Jeff Corwin in your life, then you may not have seen the specials they would air every now and then showing the annual mass hatching of young little turtles. There are a handful of special beaches in the world that will house hundreds of pregnant females once a year while they "do their thing" and lay their eggs (usually 3-8 eggs) in a self-dug hole in the sand. After a couple months, the eggs will hatch little baby turtles!
The race to the shore!
Their main instinct is to go to water. It's better for them to hatch at night since the cover of darkness saves many turtle lives. If they end up hatching in the daylight, they just gotta run for it. More like topple and flail, but you get the main idea. Many birds and lizards wait for this time of year to come around since the scrumptious little bite-size turtles will be so prevalent on the beach. Many baby turtles die, sadly. Sorry for the sob story, but as Disney says, it's the circle of life. But usually a good number of hatchlings will make it to the shoreline. Even then, however, they still have a lot ahead of them. Swimming against the current of the ocean when you're not even an hour old is kind of insane, but they're just wired to survive and do whatever it takes to get to water.
Once they get past the predators from when they were eggs, the predators from when they hatched, and the strong ocean current, they still have to find food. And I haven't even mentioned that they're pretty much alone out there in the big blue. Their parents don't wait up on them, you can be sure of that. They're on their own from day 1. More like second 1. Turtles are pretty darn tough once you think about it, and I don't just mean their tough shell.
I really have this awesome dream of going to the Galapagos Islands. If you've never heard of this island, I feel for you. It's kind of noted as the famous spot correlated with Charles Darwin, the esteemed and controversial scientist who made the theory of evolution a common worldwide topic of scientific conversation. 
Adult Galapagos Tortoise vs. Adult Human.
Anyways, the reason why I want to go there is this: the Galapagos tortoises. (FYI: tortoise is to land as turtle is to water.) Man, those things are huge. Huge, I tell you. Like if a tortoise was a T-rex, it would be the Galapagos tortoise. Many biologists and other scientists claim that the tortoises, along with other flora and fauna on the island, have evolved separately from their ancestors (because of the isolation). The animals and plants somehow got there by sea or air a long time ago and started evolving to enhance their adaptability to their specific surroundings. I'm getting on a very broad subject here, but that's the widely accepted reason why they look so different.
Turtles, and I guess now tortoises, are some awesome reptiles. They look ancient because they are ancient. And they move like they're ancient. I guess one word to describe any turtles would be ancient. That would be my best word. And of course they're cool! Because everyone likes turtles!


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