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Oh Baby! Tennessee Aquarium has a Nursery Full of Tiny Turtles
Tiny terrapins are taking over the Tennessee Aquarium, triggering a tidal wave of tasks for turtle keepers. This month to date, herpetologists have tallied two dozen new turtles. While many might think tracking turtles would take a tortoise-like tempo, the Aquarium’s collection of more than 500 turtles from 75 different species makes herpetology truly a trade that’s tackled in track shoes. “In addition to all of the exhibits with turtles, we care for a large number of pairs off exhibit. So we stay busy throughout the year,” said Aquarium senior herpetologist Bill Hughes. “While many species nest at specific times of the year, they don’t choose specific times of the day to lay eggs. So, we really have to keep a close eye on all of the enclosures to make sure we collect the eggs in a timely fashion for incubation.”
Up-To-Date Turtle Tot Totals – 21 New Babies Help Conservation Efforts
Hughes reports eight yellow-blotched map turtles, Graptemys flavimaculata, this year. A few more could hatch at the Aquarium before the season is over. This species of map turtle is endemic to the Pascagoula River and some of its tributaries in Mississippi. “They are declining in the wild because of habitat loss and are currently federally-protected,” Hughes said. Success with species like the yellow-blotched map turtle helps provide offspring that can be placed at other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). “We’re then able to reach guests with important conservation messages about rare or protected species that cannot, or should not, be removed from the wild,” said Dave Collins, the Aquarium’s curator of forests. See video: http://bit.ly/LPGPE2
The sex of these hatchlings depends on the incubation temperature. Aquarium experts are able to manage the temperature carefully to get an even number of male and female yellow-blotched map turtles. This is critical for the long-term success of any turtle breeding program. “This builds assurance colonies. If these species should disappear in the wild, they won’t become totally extinct,” said Collins. Adult yellow-blotched map turtles can be seen in the Aquarium’s Delta and Pascagoula River exhibits.
The red-headed Amazon River turtle, Podocnemis erythrocephala, is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, IUCN, but the reality of their status could be much grimmer. “The most recent information is from 1996 so we don’t really know how many are left in the wild,” said Hughes. “It’s difficult to believe their populations have increased significantly since the last report.” There are now seven new baby red-headed Amazon River turtles at the Aquarium. “In the previous years combined, we have only hatched five of this species,” Hughes said. “We still have one egg incubating that appears to be viable.” Aquarium guests can see an adult male red-headed Amazon turtle in the Rivers of the World Gallery. See video: http://bit.ly/MLir6h
The four-eyed turtle, Sacalia quadriocellata, is listed as Endangered by IUCN. The Aquarium has three new four-eyed turtle hatchlings. This species gets its name from the false eye markings on their necks. Hughes said these most recent babies hatched from eggs laid in April. The Aquarium displays a hatchling from last year in the nursery exhibit in the River Journey Turtle Gallery. Baby four-eyed turtles from previous years have been placed at other AZA institutions. The majority of the U.S. population of these turtles is at the Tennessee Aquarium, the only zoo or aquarium currently breeding this species. “Critically endangered species, including many Asian species such as the four-eyed turtle, face a very real threat of disappearing in the wild,” said Collins. Guests can also see four-eyed turtles in the Asian River exhibit. See video: http://bit.ly/QkZzyl
Finally, two Florida chicken turtles, Deirochelys reticularia chrysea, joined the rest of this recent baby boom at the Aquarium. This pair hatched from eggs laid at the end of January. This species is not threatened or endangered in the wild in spite of their common name. They were once commonly sold in southern markets as food. The meat was said to “taste like chicken.” Collins says breeding success among these rather abundant turtles can help other endangered species.
“Chicken turtles have unusual reproductive strategies,” said Collins. “They breed in winter and their eggs need to be cooled for several weeks before being warmed to begin developing. Research in zoos and aquariums helps uncover these details. And that can lead to successful breeding of rare species for conservation purposes.” Aquarium guests can see chicken turtles in the Delta exhibit. See video: http://bit.ly/PuJUJz
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Last Update on August 20, 2014 07:10 GMT
CELEBRITIES ON FERGUSON, MISSOURI UNREST
FERGUSON, Missouri (AP) -- Some celebrities with ties to the St. Louis area are speaking out about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri -- and the police shooting of an 18-year-old that sparked the protests. Rap star Nelly has been among the most vocal, appearing at a rally this past weekend and again on Monday night. He grew up in St. Louis -- not far from Ferguson. He has called for calm in the area. Actor Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" fame describes the area near Ferguson as his neighborhood. He says he hopes that once all the facts are in, that justice will be done.
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DAVID LETTERMAN-ROBIN WILLIAMS
NEW YORK (AP) -- David Letterman considered himself a friend of Robin Williams, as well as a comedy colleague. And he says even as someone who has known Williams for decades, he didn't see his death coming, especially as it did by his own hand. Letterman says he had no idea Williams was in so much emotional pain -- even as he was being one of the funniest people on the planet. Letterman paid tribute to Williams on his show Monday night -- a week after the world learned of his suicide. Letterman talked about how a group of comedians working the Comedy Store in Los Angeles thought they might have to find another line of work after hearing Williams perform as a newcomer.
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Just as Don Pardo's voice made "Saturday Night Live" special, everyone knows it just won't be the same without him, now that he has died. Who will be the replacement? The man who runs SNL doesn't know -- and says he's glad he has about a month to figure out what to do. Lorne Michaels says when SNL first went on the air, he was given a list of staff announcers -- and when he saw Pardo's name, he knew he had to have him aboard. Michaels describes Pardo as the show's "link to the beginnings of television on NBC." Pardo died Monday at age 96.
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DWAYNE JOHNSON TO DO DC COMICS MOVIE
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Dwayne Johnson says he will be taking on a role in an upcoming movie based on DC Comics. Only trouble is he hasn't decided whether to play Shazam or his arch-nemesis Black Adam. While he hasn't come down on one side or the other, he seems to be hinting toward the darker role. He says he has always been a fan of anti-heroes -- and that one of his favorite DC Comics characters is Black Adam. Either way, Johnson says movie fans won't be shortchanged. He promises to put his heart, soul and bones into the role.
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JACKIE CHAN'S SON BUSTED IN CHINA
BEIJING (AP) -- Jackie Chan's son has become the latest celebrity caught up in China's crackdown on drugs. Jaycee Chan, an actor himself, was detained late last week along with a Taiwanese movie star. Police say both actors tested positive for pot -- and admitted smoking weed. Authorities also say 100 grams of pot were taken from Chan's home. A statement from Chan's management team apologizes to the public for the "social impact" caused by the drug bust. China's president declared back in June that illegal drugs should be wiped out and that offenders would be severely punished.
BOB MARLEY MUSICAL
NEW YORK (AP) -- Bob Marley is the latest musician whose work will be the subject of a musical. A Baltimore theater says it will roll out the world premiere of "Marley" around the middle of next year. The show focuses on the years between 1975 and 1978, when Marley survived an attempted assassination in his native Jamaica and went into exile in London. It will feature sings like "Jamming," "Three Little Birds" and "Roots, Rock, Reggae."
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