Photographs and Text by Boysenberry45
Everyone knows that birds and snakes molt, but did you know that turtles do, too? Birds and dogs molt to change outfits for mating season or to switch to a lighter or heavier coat as the weather changes. Turtles molt to increase their housing accommodations, just like moving from a studio to a one-bedroom apartment.
Central Park has a variety of turtles, but the most common one is the Red-Eared Slider. Unlike lobsters which stop molting as they age, turtles continue to molt throughout their lives. As the turtle ages, it sheds its scutes, the individual scales on the turtle’s back, so newer, slightly larger ones can take their place. Sadly, a visit from the Tooth Fairy is not part of this process. Female Red-Eared Sliders grow larger than males and molt more frequently. The process isn’t pretty, but it is essential, and the end result is.
Two of the best spots in Central Park to find these critters are the aptly-named Turtle Pond and around the banks of the Harlem Meer, although turtles can be found in any body of water in the park. Molting takes a rest during the winter, when turtles brumate, burrowing into the mud at the bottom of the water body to hibernate.
Perhaps you’d like to give thanks today that you’re not a turtle?