Turtles and Tortoises Don’t Age?

Recently, one of my iguana companions died. Ezra, a green iguana (Iguana iguana), finally succumbed to old age. A green iguana, a very common pet lizard, Ezra had lived with me for 20 years after coming to my iguana rescue in New Jersey as a full-grown adult. He must have been at least 5 years old, probably closer to 7-8 years old. We had a special relationship, so I was heart-broken when his end finally came. Green iguanas usually live 15-20 years in the wild, but Ezra was most likely 27 when he passed. A very nice long life for an Iguana. After his passing, I came across an article in Life (23 June 2022) by Clare Wilson. It’s been observed that in captivity, some chelonian species have a lower rate of aging as they grow older. Keep in mind, turtles and tortoises are already known for their long lives. So why is this? That’s exactly what I wanted to know.

Negative Aging? Yes.

Knowing the life spans are important when considering these species for pets. The article described that some species living in captivity have a much slower rate of aging, approaching zero and, amazingly in some cases, a negative value. What? Negative value? Does that mean the reptiles got younger? No, we’re talking about the rate of aging.

Rate of aging refers to the likelihood of an individual’s death the older they get within a population. In most animals this rate increases rapidly as they get older; just think about mammals, such as us humans.

In contrast, some turtles and tortoises when kept in captivity have a decreased ageing rate. Captive care may be improving their longevity.

An interesting characteristic about turtles and tortoises is that they grow throughout their lives. Females produce more eggs the larger they grow. So, living longer enhances their reproductive opportunity.

Of course, none of these animals live forever. Is it the result of reliable food, good medical care and lack of predation and environmental dangers? That’s not fully understood. Or is it something in the animal’s physiology? This information could provide clues on how to increase human longevity. We always seem to bring it back to helping our species.

The Difference with Iguanas

Ezra the green iguana sunbathing in the yard.

Ezra Green Iguana’s life in captivity was not typical. Most green iguanas kept as pets have a much reduced life expectancy. Within the first year in captivity, 95% of green iguanas die; it’s 99% within the first two years. These are troubling and unacceptable statistics. Iguanas are beautiful lizards with a prehistoric look reminiscent of dinosaurs. Evolutionarily, however, they are fairly new. They are only native to the Americas. I ran an iguana rescue in NJ. I placed Ezra twice. Once to a truly horrifying situation that fortunately I was able to remove him from. The second time was to a wonderful family that wanted to use him for educational talks. However, he wasn’t happy with them. They built him a fabulous outdoor enclosure, but we discovered that he really wanted to live with me. When he was returned the second time, I promised him he could always stay with me and he did.

As a side note, when people came to adopt from me, I made sure the iguana chose the human and not the other way around. I also discovered that I had to leave the room, so the iguana would reveal its true feelings about the adopter and not be reassured by my presence. And people don’t think reptiles can differentiate between humans. But that’s a tale for another blog.

Some reptiles are easier to keep as pets. Green iguanas are not good choices. They require extensive lighting, heating, and enclosures as well as daily fresh food. As prey animals, they defend themselves first and worry about being pleasant later. As I often say, “everything eats as iguana.” It takes about a year of daily interaction to “socialize” an iguana. They will never be tame, but may become an accommodating wild animal. Their human companions must earn their trust.

If you’d like to have a lizard family member, I recommend bearded dragons (Pogona sp.) or geckos (especially leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius). Look for captive bred individuals – many of them have impressive color morphs.

This is one of my color morphs green iguanas: He’s a red morph green iguana.

A bright orange iguana.

Always check your local rescues for reptiles needing good homes. That way, you’ll get a new family member with background information.

My final thought is that I’m pleased that some turtles and tortoises do well in captivity. We need to ensure that we can say that about all reptiles we take into captivity. Want to learn mre about turtle, tortoise, and iguana conservation? Check out my educational workbooks. Made for children in grades K-8 but fun and interesting enough for the adults too. 

 

Journal references: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.abl7811 and DOI: 10.1126/science.abm0151

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2325563-some-turtles-that-live-longer-have-a-lower-chance-of-dying-each-year/#ixzz7XBcc1Zz1

Life with My Rascally Reptiles

Home sweet home. What do you think of when you think of home? Family? Safety? Danger? Well, maybe not danger, but there are so many things to trip over while going about one’s daily routine. Parents often complain about their children’s toys lying about on the floor, rug edges, strewn clothes, etc. My house is also full of trip hazards. However, it’s not what I’ll trip over but who. Yes, I regularly trip over my family members. Of course, they are rather short and walk very quietly. Sandburg’s cat feet have nothing on a tortoise or turtle feet. At least, my iguanas have the decency to click their nails on my tile floor as they approach. Join me for a day in the life with my rascally reptiles.

Rascals from the Start!

My day starts with tortoises circling me as I prepare everyone’s breakfasts. I’m trying to concentrate on all their plates spread out on the counter and I have to deal with multiple tortoises roaming around my feet. One moment, I’m alone, tearing collard green leaves, the next I’m being circled by several hard-shelled creatures. I move them away, but they just come back. Not only do I trip over them, but they walk over my feet, pinning them to the floor.

Three of Elaine's tortoises crowding together on her kitchen floor.

 

Another place that the tortoises like to lie in wait to trip me is on the rug in the front room. Their dark shells blend in nicely with my rug. They are particularly effective speed bumps when the room is dark. I’ve done a few face plants on this, fortunately, very plush rug, so no significant injuries. But it is always a surprise!

A tortoise blends in with the pattern on a muted tone rug.

Obsolete Obstacles

If I place something on the floor, the tortoises have to explore, pushing it or climbing over it.

You wouldn’t think an animal with this body shape would have such a need to climb. I guess tortoises and people are a lot alike when it comes to climbing. After all, why do we climb Mount Everest? Because it’s there.

A tortoise climbing over a large black case that was set on the floor.

But climbing isn’t limited to my tortoises. The master climber in the household is the box turtle. He particularly likes screens. And tight spaces. I put the box in the space to keep him from crawling to the back. Unfortunately, the box was an obstacle he could overcome…

Trevor the tortoise bracing himself between a narrow passage to move over a box blocking his path.

I always double-check that there isn’t a turtle in the door before I lock it up.

As I mentioned above, the tortoises are tripping hazards. But I can’t get away from their attacks even while sitting. If they can’t go under or over something, they push it, like a bulldozer. They have enough oomph to move the chair with me on it. An empty chair can end up in a different room.

A tortoise wedged himself under an office chair to push it out of the way.

Lurking Lizards

I have other reptiles in my family that I have to watch for. I always double-check my sofa before sitting, because there just might be a large lizard lurking beneath the pillows.

An iguana burrowed under couch pillows.

There’s a mouth at the other end of that tail.

I’m not the only household member who is targeted by the tortoises. At least they don’t flip me on my back and spin me like a top…

A turtle flipped over on its back by a nearby tortoise.
So, the next time you step on your child’s toys with your bare feet, remember it could be worse. You could be the unwitting or intentional victim of scheming tortoises, turtles, and iguanas. Those rascally reptiles! If you’d like to learn more about my reptile family please visit my YouTube channel and while you’re there, remember to subscribe!

Shell-a-Brate World Turtle Day!

If you are familiar with my writing, you’ll have noticed that turtles are a frequent topic. But wait, you may say, I thought you usually wrote about tortoises? I hate to admit it, but tortoises fall into the category of turtles! Please don’t tell Myrtle, my red-foot tortoise. I wrote my first rhyming picture book, Don’t Call Me Turtle, for her. She kept being called Myrtle the turtle, which she hated. Most people don’t realize just how different turtles and tortoises are. No matter if you prefer terrestrial or sea turtles, or tortoises, join together to shell-a-brate Turtle World Day on May 23. 

World Turtle Day started in 2000 as an event sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue. The purpose is to celebrate all turtles and bring awareness to their disappearing habitats and efforts to protect them. The majority, 61%, of the 356 species of turtle are threatened or have become extinct in modern times.

What Makes a Turtle a Turtle?

Since turtles are a diverse group of reptiles, let’s explore what makes a turtle a turtle. As reptiles, they breathe air, lay eggs, and are ectotherms (their body temperatures vary with the environment). Turtles are all in the order Testudines, which is characterized by a shell developed primarily from their ribs. The shells consist of bone and are covered with scales made of keratin (the protein of hair and fingernails).

Turtles are found on most continents, many islands, and most of the ocean. What continent are turtles not found on? Antarctica, where it’s a bit too cold. They are found in both freshwater and saltwater.

Over Land and Sea

Land turtles don’t travel much, while sea turtles migrate long distances to lay eggs on selected beaches. But the sea turtles don’t travel alone, many other animals travel along with them. Barnacles (one of my favorite animals), other crustaceans, remoras (fish), algae, and diatoms tag along and are dispersed to new locations.

Land turtles are also important dispersers of seeds as well as modifying their environment. They dig tunnels and help. maintain the environment in deserts, wetlands, and both freshwater and marine environs. These seemingly lackluster reptiles have a significant impact on the health of their ecosystems and our quality of life. In my book, Don’t Make Me Rattle, you can learn about how many animals brumate* together in tortoise dens during cold weather. Animals that would be considered predator and prey, diner and meal, spend time together in underground dens. If turtle species are lost, many other species will be impacted, both plants and animals.

*In extreme temperatures, mammals hibernate, while reptiles brumate.

People are easily confused and can’t tell the difference between terrestrial (land) turtles and sea turtles. This results in land turtles being thrown into the ocean. I wrote a book on this difference on behalf of the Cayman Islands where many freshwater hickatees are thrown to their death in the ocean.

green book cover with turtle illustration

But this is also true of tortoises and land turtles. People too frequently throw tortoises into the water, where they drown. Turtles can swim, but tortoises can’t. More on this later.

So, where do tortoises fit into this family? When I ask people if they know the differences between turtles and tortoises, the most common response is that turtles live in water. But the correct answer is, that all turtles can swim, although they may never be near water. Meet Ela, my Sonoran Desert Box Turtle. 

Ela the sonoran box turtle, her tongue is sticking out and she is posing on grass outside.

This turtle will never see a body of water but spent her life in the dryness of the desert. I did have another Sonoran Desert Box turtle who loved swimming in my pool. Every night I’d come home from work and find him paddling happily in the water, even though the water was very, very cold! The chlorine wasn’t an issue to him. I worried about hypothermia, so blocked his path to the pool – he left! His spot in my yard was taken over by Ela. Ela would brumate with Zoe my Sonoran Desert tortoise each winter and they would emerge together in the spring.

For some of the many differences between turtles and tortoises, I humbly suggest you read Don’t Call Me Turtle.

The Importance of Conservation

Why are turtles losing the battle to extinction? After all, turtles roamed about with dinosaurs and were able to survive what killed them off. Many are hunted for their meat and eggs, used in traditional medicine, their shells are used for jewelry, run over on the road, and drowned as bycatch. On top of this are habitat destruction, climate change, and disease. Sadly, this has reduced turtles around the world, something a meteor couldn’t do 65 million years ago. 

We have witnessed turtle extinctions in our lifetime. I had the honor of meeting Lonesome George in the Galapagos, the last surviving Pinta giant tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii). His death in June 2012 was the end of a species. Although his death was publicized and mourned around the world, many reptilian species die without any notice.

But they’re just turtles, tortoises, and terrapins, right? How much impact could they really have? When the giant tortoises were reintroduced to islands in the Galapagos (Ecuador), the savanna ecosystem was restored. This allows for the survival of other native plants and animals. One keystone species can accomplish a lot.

People look at turtles and tortoises and see moving lumps. Nondescript lumps that make a nice pop when you run over them on the road. However, if you’ve ever gotten to know a tortoise or a turtle, you know they have a lot of personalities. They don’t hesitate to let you know their likes and dislikes. They are not “shrinking violets.” No, these reptiles bite each other, ram each other with their gular horn, and chase each other at surprising speeds.

A bobcat leers at an oncoming tortoise, the image is distorted by a screen door.

If you look closely at this photo, you’ll see a bobcat on the right about to flee for its life from the rampaging sulcate tortoise on the left. Duke, the tortoise, was very proud of himself, strutting around the yard, looking for other predators to chase off. I should put up a “Beware of Attack Tortoise” sign on my gate.

Now, are you ready to shell-a-brate?! These fascinating reptiles deserve our support and admiration on May 23 and every day. My twelve tortoises and two turtles agree. If you have any questions about turtles, please reach out to me. You might also enjoy my turtle and tortoise videos on my YouTube channel.

Why Don’t I Write That?

I’m so happy in-person book sales are returning. I love speaking to people about my books and about the importance of science education through children’s books. Many people are delighted to find my books and often suggest other topics for me to write about. I write them all down. 

My most popular books are my Don’t series, which features animals and plants found in the Sonoran Desert (and other places), are popular in the Tucson area. Often people will comment that they’ve bought one or seen it for sale in various gift shops. That makes my day. However, even though I’m delighted when people recognize my books, I often get credit for a book I didn’t write: Don’t Call Me Pig! But I do have a story about it.

Once Upon a Don’t

Book Cover: Don't Call Me Pig!

Don’t Call Me Pig!  is about the javelinas, or peccaries, of the Sonoran Desert. They are not pigs, although they look a lot like pigs. One clue is that javelinas don’t have tails! Another difference, which is important to my frequent topic of invasiveness of species, is that javelinas are native to the Americas (the New World), but domestic pigs (which become wild boars) are from the Old World (Africa, Asia and Europe).

Don’t Call Me Pig! was written by the very talented author, Conrad Storad. When I was planning on writing about the differences between turtles and tortoises, I wanted to emulate Storad’s book style. His books included many scientific facts and natural history, just like I wanted to do. When I bought my copy of Don’t Call Me Pig!, I discovered that his picture book rhymed. You may be familiar with my opinion that children’s pictures books should rhyme. Inspired, I created my rhyming picture book on behalf of my tortoise, Myrtle (not Myrtle the turtle!)

However, I was concerned about the title. I wanted to name my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! Was this too close to Don’t Call Me Pig!? Even though, he didn’t have any other titles with Don’t Call Me, would people confuse us?

As I was contemplating my book’s name, I had the opportunity to sit next to Storad at a book festival in Tucson. This gave me a chance to speak with him. First, I learned that his book, Don’t Call Me Pig!, had just sold a million copies. Not bad for a rhyming picture book, published 1999. Modern traditional publishers have been wary of rhyming picture books, with some editors and agents refusing to even look at them. I doubt I will ever reach that sales level, but why not try?

I asked Storad if he minded if I titled my book so closely to his. He graciously told me to go ahead, that he didn’t mind at all. That was the start of my Don’t series about animals and plants that are found in the Sonoran Desert and other places. I am grateful to Storad for his kindness and encouragement. I doubt he remembers me, but I will always remember him.

For more information about my books and me, check out www.LyricPower.net. You’ll find tons of educational and entertaining books, downloadable workbooks, and puzzles.

A Bite of a Blog: Feeding my Scaly Family

There’s a lot of talk about eating. People are encouraged to eat mindfully. Set the table and concentrate on your meal. But, I prefer to eat in front of my laptop. I like to spend most of my free time putting words onto pages. I enjoy writing books and blogs. So, when I get hungry, I grab something, set it beside me, and consume as I create. But thinking about eating habits leads me to my reptilian family members. As you can imagine, their eating habits are quite different. I hope you enjoy this little bite about the daily eating habits of my scaly family members!

What They Eat

I prepare fresh food for my scaly kids every day, serving them different proportions, depending on their appetites and food preferences. I feed my family first thing in the morning. Then, they can graze all day. Their meal is a “salad” of high calcium greens like collard greens, turnip tops, and various vegetables. I whittle the greens into thin strips with a potato peeler to make it easier for them to eat. My reptiles don’t have grinding teeth, like our molars. On occasion, I add a little fruit as a treat.

It’s Not Just What

The how and where they eat is just as important as what they eat. In captivity, most animals don’t move around as much as they would in the wild. There is no need for them to search for sustenance. Because of this, caretakers are encouraged to make their reptiles move a bit to reach their food. Calliope Green Iguana likes to climb up to her basking perch to eat. Her heat and sun lamps keep her nice and warm while she dines.

Calliope the iguana eating her salad. Her front feet are on the edge of her dish.

In contrast, Chile Green Iguana prefers to reach down. I love the way he stretches his body while enjoying his meal. Once he finishes, he’ll pull himself back up to his basking shelf. 

Chile the iguana eat his salad. He is hanging upside down in his cage while eating.

For the tortoises that roam free around my house, I put out plates of food in various spots. Consequently, they can walk about, choosing where they’d like to eat. They also enjoy basking before and after meals.

This is a close-up of a tortoise enjoying a strawberry.

Trevor the tortoise enjoying a strawberry.

One of the box turtles also enjoys strawberries. The other one doesn’t.

If you want to see my family members eating, check out their videos on my YouTube channel: Elaine Powers or Curtis Curly-tail Speaks. You’ll find all sorts of interesting videos. And while you are there, become a subscriber!

The Importance of Eating

I need to watch my family members eat. I get information about the health of each animal. When a reptile is sick, the first symptom is often a lack of appetite. If they feed eagerly, I know all is well. If they don’t, I start checking for problems. Is the heat lamp burned out? Are they sick or injured? If something is wrong, it’s off to the local reptile vet we go. I’m very fortunate to have a superb reptile vet. One bit of advice I give to new reptile caretakers is to locate a reptile veterinarian before you bring your new family member home.

If you’d like to read a fun book about the eating habits of other animals, I recommend How to Eat Breakfast by Gene Twaronite, another Lyric Power Publishing LLC author.

Writing this made me hungry. I’m off in search of a snack. I hope you enjoy your food as much as my scaly kids do! You might not want to hang upside down to eat, though.

Prize-Winning Size Found in My Kitchen!

Have you eaten your leafy green vegetables today? You should! Vegetables are important for a healthy lifestyle.

My family members would agree – they are herbivores, and they enjoy their leafy greens. People may eat their greens cooked or raw.  My reptiles prefer their greens raw. These collard leaves are important sources of calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, K and folate, to build strong reptile bodies.

Every day I prepare a salad for each family member of leafy greens topped with various vegetables. The preferred greens are collard greens, turnip tops, dandelion greens and mustard greens. Every now and then, I include others, like spinach and kale. Never lettuce or cabbage.

Twice a week, I pick up a case of collard greens, the basis for my salads. They’re available year-round, but the sizes of the leaves and bunches changes with availability. Usually, the leaves around 10 inches long with six leaves to a bunch.

Recently, the farmers have outdone themselves, producing amazingly large leaves.

Pictured above is the meal-sized leaf!

6 tortoises of three species gathered around a heat lamp
Breakfast was good!

I hope you enjoy your leafy greens as much as my family does.

May all your leaves be big ones!

Book Note: Do you know the many differences between tortoises and turtles? They all enjoy collard greens, but there are ten differences noted in the illustrated, rhyming, fun science book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! This favorite among preschoolers (for its rhymes) is popular with Mom and Dad, too! Pick up a copy for your turtle- or tortoise-lover today!

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs
There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme. She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)
Voted 5-Stars by the Preschool Crowd

#elaineapowers  #lyricpowers  #iguanas  #tortoises  #collardgreens

Pandemic Life, Pandemic Dreams—and Tortoises!

I’ve always had vivid dreams, many that I can fully remember when I wake up. Most are filled with action (being chased or falling), which doesn’t really bother me. However, every now and then I have a bad dream that wakes me up with a start and a surge of adrenaline. I’ve forgotten to do something important! It might be something at work or forgetting to feed some of my scaled family members. Not exactly nightmares, but definitely bad dreams. These things of dreams had never happened, but I guess deep down in my psyche, I was concerned about my chores. My newest bad dream caught me by surprise, but it really shouldn’t have when I thought about it.

Like many people, I have a Zoom account that I use for my business talks and for a few organizations that I belong to. It’s part of keeping our monthly meetings going since we can’t get together due to the pandemic restrictions. For one of the Saturday meetings, I send out the link once I receive notification participants have paid the fee. One Friday night I woke up with a start and an intense feeling of dread. I had forgotten to send out the links for the meeting! Oh, no! A bunch of people and the speaker didn’t get the link for the meeting. I had to get up and send them out before it was too late.

Except that meeting had been held the weekend before! As I realized that I was okay, it struck me that my bad dreams had evolved with the pandemic along with my way of living!

Image above courtesy of Free-Photos from Pixabay

I’ve evolved in another way, too! I’m enjoying talking via video on Facebook, every Thursday at 3:00 Mountain Standard Time. I call them my Reptile-Side Chats because I live in a home where there is usually a reptile by my side. I’ve been told they are fun to listen to–I do like to make science education fun. What is seen on these videos is also how I write my children’s books.

Here are the links to the video talks on Facebook:

Feb 25th I spoke about the birthday celebration of my book Don’t Make Me Rattle!

On March 11, I showed my adoptive Sonoran Desert Tortoise.    

On March 18, I spoke about the three types of Tortoises I live with. 

On March 25, I spoke of the differences between Turtles and Tortoises. I wrote a book about that.   

illustration of curly-tail lizard, curtis

You can also view the Facebook videos on my YouTube page, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks.

a dark green book cover: Hickatees vs Sea Turtles
Do you know the differences between the land-dwelling Hickatee and the ocean-dwelling Sea Turtle? Learn about them inside.
Reading Level:
Ages 6+
Written in Rhyme, 45 Pages
Wonderful Illustrations of the Native Hickatee Turtle and Sea Turtles
by Anderson Atlas
Learn all about the endemic Hickatee turtle who has so many troubles–well-meaning humans who throw them to their deaths into the ocean, cars that run over them, loss of land to lay their eggs, and cousins pushing them out.
Shows physical traits and the differences between these land-dwelling turtles and the sea turtles that do reside in the ocean.
Make friends with the Hickatee today!

And my tortoise and turtle books are shown here. If you enjoy my videos, I believe you will enjoy my books, as well.

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs

#Elaine A Powers
#Tortoise or Turtle
#Don’t Call Me Turtle
#Hickatee vs. Sea Turtle
#Reptile-Side Chats
#Facebook Live Thursdays

My Computer is Padded: Reptile-Side Chats Here I Come!

In previous posts, I mentioned the lessons learned from doing Facebook Live talks. I was able to continue them last week with my new laptop.  New, because my Sonoran Desert tortoise peed on my old laptop and killed it. I did hold her up for 12 minutes, and she showed great restraint, so it really wasn’t her fault.

Despite having purchased the protection plan with my new computer, I wasn’t taking any chances with last Thursday’s talk, which featured three tortoises! I remembered I had these absorbent pads tucked away in my bathroom closet.  This is what I was saving them for!

With my new laptop safely covered, the chat went on without a soaking! I will now continue my talks, knowing all will be well. (Reptiles are known to be a bit leaky.)

My Reptile-Side Chats are on Thursdays at 3:00 pm MST on Facebook on my personal page, Elaine Powers. Tomorrow, 3/25/21, I’ll be showing the differences between tortoises and turtles live, with the very cute Trevor the Turtle and one of my tortoises. I’ll also show the book I wrote about the differences, Don’t Call Me Turtle! The rhyming stanzas make learning science fun!

If you’d like to watch the recordings of my Reptile-Side Chats (teaching about reptiles, of course!), they are posted on my YouTube channel, Curtis Curly-tail Speaks.

#funscience #elaineapowers #Reptile-Side Chats #tortoiseorturtle

#reptileeducation

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs
There are many differences between tortoises and turtles, and the wise tortoise who narrates this book tells us about ten of those differences–in rhyme. She also says, “Don’t Call Me Turtle!” (Even if my name should be Myrtle.)

The Facebook Live Learning Curve–Post Two: Pee on Set

In a previous blog post, I mentioned the surprises I had in my first Facebook Live talk. My second talk with my iguana went well and I thought I knew what I was doing.

Hah!

For my third talk, I showed my Sonoran Desert Tortoise and I mentioned how reptiles urinate when they are stressed. That’s why you should never pick up a desert tortoise. Its supply of water is stored in its bladder and using it to repel you, it is doomed to death by dehydration.

I had learned from my in-person talks that the tortoises often will void, so I put down a tarp.  Voiding is not an issue since I can provide them with as much water as they need to refill.  Consequently, I had a towel in place for my Facebook talk just in case. The tortoise did great. She stayed on camera and was relaxed as I held her in the air for over ten minutes. As I signed off, I felt water run down my shirt. I placed her in the box on the chair beside me and finished up my presentation. I then noticed some water on my laptop and wiped it off. Yes, she had peed her displeasure onto my computer.

As I went to move my laptop back to the table where I usually worked, the screen went black. I pushed the on button, nothing.  On no, had she doused my computer enough to kill it? Yes. Yes, she had. I rushed my trusty laptop, who had been with me for many years, off to the repairman. He wasn’t able to save my electronic companion, but he was able to save her memory.

graphic Facebook Live Reptile Side Chat

I intend to share three tortoises during my Facebook Live Talk tomorrow, Thursday, March 18th.  Look for me at 3:00 p.m. MST at my personal Facebook page, Elaine Powers, during which time I will be wrapping my new laptop in plastic! I can’t wait to get back to doing live talks. It is so much safer for my electronics.

I did give the manager a great story to tell of the woman whose laptop was destroyed by tortoise pee!

Book Note: To check out the fun children’s science books I’ve written about turtles and tortoises, please click on the books below or in the My Books section here. They’re fun, informative and are wonderfully illustrated by the talented artists I use.

Two fun science books on tortoises and turtles

 

Uh, Oh! A Green Iguana Found in Sweetwater Wetlands Needs a New Home

Here is Albert finishing up his recovery in foster care. By the way, he’s very adept at using his magnificent tail for defense!

The Sonoran Desert is not known for its wetlands. That’s why the Sweetwater Wetlands are so special. This isn’t a natural wetlands, but was created by the City of Tucson’s reclaimed water system. Reclaimed water is used exclusively in the wetlands. Visitors have access to the wetlands and the inhabitants through 2.5 miles of pathways.

Surface water attracts wildlife in the desert, so many can be seen in the Sweetwater Wetlands. Being particularly fond of reptiles, I’m curious about what kinds might be there. Several reptiles are known to inhabit the wetlands, such as the Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus), Western Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata), Sonoran Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer affnis) and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox).

However, recently a reptile was seen that definitely did not belong there. It’s bad enough that Red-eared Slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) have been introduced there, and the Sweetwater Wetlands does not need Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana).

Unfortunately, green iguanas have become invasive in many ecosystems around the world because people release them where they don’t belong, like the Sweetwater Wetlands. Part of my work in iguana conservation is to help people identify green iguanas. If you’d like more information on iguanas, please visit my website and contact me through elaineapowers.com.

After several reports were received about a male iguana in the wetlands, the Animal Experts were called. They had to wade through the water to reach the tree where the iguana was hanging out. Definitely, an incredible adventure. The men were able to successfully retrieve the lizard. You can follow their story on Animal Experts on Facebook.

The iguana was taken to a local reptile veterinarian who discovered he had a large bladder stone. It is suspected that this is why he was released. The staff named him Albert. Surgery was performed to remove the stone and Albert was put into foster care to recover.

photo of large bladder stone removed from iguana
Photo of the bladder stone removed by Dr. Jarchow of Orange Grove Animal Hospital.

A GoFundMe account was set up to help pay for Albert’s medical costs. As soon as he has healed, Albert will be put up for adoption. Hopefully, Albert will find a forever home soon.

Book Note: I wrote a book called Silent Rocks about the critically endangered rock iguanas of Cayman Brac, and how they need the help of humans to survive. If you’d like to help, book information is here and it is available at Amazon.com.

white book cover with rock iguana photo on cover
The endemic Sister Isle Rock Iguana of Cayman Brac is critically endangered. This poignant book shows why* and how we humans can help. Includes many photographs of these magnificent large lizards.
*Silent Rocks can be used to teach how humans endanger many species.

‘Zoe the Star’ Tortoise! by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello to all my friends out there! I hope you are taking care of yourselves and each other in these difficult times. I’m looking forward to the day when my human friends don’t have to worry anymore about the virus called Covid-19! (If I could, I would banish it right now!) Until this passes, please take good care out there.

I love having made so many friends through my sidekick, Elaine A. Powers, and today I’d like to introduce you to Zoe, a Sonoran Desert tortoise. She’s a female who knows her territory and stands her ground. (I just love that in a tortoise!)

I don’t want to tell Zoe she’ll never be the star I am, of course, but take a look at my You Tube channel on your small screen at this beauty in her habitat and learn about what it takes to be a tortoise in the Sonoran Desert.

And for the kids and kids-at-heart in your home, have some fun with science education using the activity sheets and workbooks from Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

Here’s an example or two:

Twenty-three fun, engaging, and interactive pages on the Freshwater Turtle.
Ideal for your young learners.
Four ecology coloring and information pages; three spelling and tracing pages; what freshwater turtles eat coloring page; label the parts of a freshwater turtle coloring page; complete the life-cycle of the turtle (same for both freshwater and green sea turtle); three color by addition and subtraction pages; two learn to spell coloring pages; and several teacher information pages suitable for creating bulletin boards about freshwater turtles.

47 pages of captivating activities that kids from kindergarten through 3rd grade are certain to enjoy! Includes spelling pages, two Venn-Diagram activities: bats vs. parrots, and bats vs. rats; math pages, reading comprehension pages for both bats and rats; a teacher-driven felt board activity; rhyming words, less than-greater than coloring sheet; two word searches, and MORE! Students will gain a deeper understanding of the Caribbean Fruit Bat and the rats that live on Cayman Brac and how they affect the ecology.

Starfish: How Many Arms?

I started out my biology career wanting to be a marine biologist. Even though I ended up as a laboratory researcher, I’m always looking for interesting creatures when I visit the ocean. I never know who I’m going to write about in my next fun science book!

One group of animals I always enjoy seeing are starfish. They come in different shapes and colors. Starfish are echinoderms, a diverse family of marine invertebrates. They are found in all oceans and none of them can live in freshwater. Of course, starfish are not fish; the name comes from their star-like shape. Starfish usually have five arms but some have up to 40 arms!

One thing all starfish have in common is their radial symmetry. Their body can be divided into five equal parts. Amazing. Don’t worry that they’ll become asymmetrical if a predator bites off an arm–starfish have the ability to regenerate their arms.

Starfish themselves are carnivores. Their mouths are located on the underside of their bodies (the anus is on the top side). Interestingly, a starfish has two stomachs, one of which can be pushed outside the body to allow it to swallow the large prey that can’t fit in its small mouth.

I like playing with the multitude of starfish feet–feeling the tube feet crawl on my hand. The feet are used for moving, of course, but also for catching prey. While the feet are moving the starfish, its bony skeleton with its spikes and thorns provides protection from above. Which is a good thing, because starfish have lots of predators.

These are some of the beautiful starfish I have encountered.

Someday, I might write a book about starfish. For now, I’ll just have to know they run into the sea turtles you’ll see pictured in the book below that I wrote about the Hickatee turtle. It teaches the physical traits and differences between the land-dwelling Hickatee and the ocean-dwelling sea turtles.

Or, learn all about another fellow ocean feeder, in this Lyric Power Publishing workbook full of activity sheets about the Brown Booby–the large seabirds who live on only one island in the world.

He’s NOT a Tortoise! by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello, everyone! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail, at your service! Well, actually, I’m here today for my friend, Trevor. He asked me to share his rant with you. 

Trevor is a Box Turtle. He recently posted a selfie at the beginning of a literacy school event on social media. Numerous comments were added about what an attractive tortoise he was.  Tortoise! 

Trevor isn’t a tortoise–he’s a turtle!  He was incensed, upset, incredulous, even! He obviously has red eyes. Don’t people know that all tortoises have black eyes?

And, Trevor says, he’d sure like to see ANY tortoise try his trick below! Only turtles with lightweight shells and webbed feet can climb screen doors!

Trevor has stomped his little feet (with turtle-webbing between his toes) and insisted that Elaine Powers, his caretaker and author of fun science books, write a book entitled Don’t Call Me Tortoise! Elaine wrote Don’t Call Me Turtle! for Trevor’s roommate, Myrtle the Red-foot tortoise, because everyone kept calling her Myrtle the Turtle, driving her nuts!

I have to back Trevor on this one. Personally, I think Elaine should’ve written Trevor’s book long ago. Am I going to have to push Trevor onto her foot, so he can transmit the turtle-poem to her, like I transmitted my story?

Nah! She’s got this! Right, Elaine? Right?

Below is the fun, rhyming book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!, that tells about the many differences between turtles and tortoises. Geez, the little ones love that book! (Learning with fun rhymes helps with keeping busy.)

P.S. — It’s only right for all the Trevor’s in the world that Don’t Call Me Tortoise! is on its way, too.

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Learn the differences between tortoises and turtles today!

And, because a lot of kids are unexpectedly home from school, check out the fun turtle and tortoise activity sheets and workbooks at Lyric Power Publishing!

Good Thing He Doesn’t Eat Lizards! by Curtis Curly-tail

My friend Trevor Box Turtle is a true ambassador for turtles. He enjoys meeting both children and adults, and they love seeing a turtle that can fold up into a box. But Trevor is so friendly that when asked to close into a box, he doesn’t like to fold the hinge in his plastron to demonstrate how it works. He always wants to be out, taking part in the action. He usually will fold up half of himself, but soon his head is back out, taking everything around him in.

A Box Turtle closed up into a box.
Trevor does fold up sometimes . . . but doesn’t like to do so when he’s meeting new people.

Sometimes, Trevor gets paid for his visit. No, not with money–what would a turtle do with money? Trevor takes his payment in snails! Back when he lived in New Jersey, Trevor’s favorite food was the slugs he found outside.  He would croak happily as his face became covered in slime.

Favorite payment for a visiting Box Turtle

When he moved to Arizona, he didn’t have a source for slugs. It’s just too dry in the Sonoran Desert. Instead some people grow snails inside their homes.  These are the people who generously share their snails for Trevor. So, the next time you wonder what to give your Box Turtle as a present, think snails!

As a voice for the lizard community, I’m just grateful Trevor doesn’t think of us as a delicacy!

And, to learn about my other very interesting turtle friends, the Hickatee, please click on the book, Hickatees vs. Sea Turtles, below.

a dark green book cover: Hickatees vs Sea Turtles