Day 206 Curious Reptilian Sound

July 3, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th years where I write and illustrate a blog on each day’s gift.)

Today I was driving out of my neighborhood when I saw something in the road. I stopped, backed up and got out of the car to find that it was a box turtle trying to cross the street. It has been many years since I’ve seen a turtle meandering about although, at the Downs Park pond, I frequently see resident giant snapping turtles poke their heads up to the surface in search of food. These snapping turtles like to live in muddy water and are not especially attractive.

On the other hand, box turtles like this one have beautiful patterns on their shells. Unlike their cousins, they can pull their legs and heads entirely into their shell. I was concerned that the turtle I saw might be crushed by a car on the busy street. I reached to pick it up and it retreated into its shell with a hiss. I have never heard a turtle hiss and at first thought it was an aggressive action and quickly put it down in some nearby grass.

Upon further research, I discovered that turtles cannot hiss because they do not have vocal cords. What sounds like a hiss happens when the turtle is frightened and retreats into its shell, quickly expelling air to make room for its head and legs. It has no control over the sound—it’s just the physics of air displacement as its body retreats inside. I learn something new every day.

My gift today is turtle-inspired trivia.

> Day 207 Defining Baltimore

You can find links to my other posts on this project here:

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