Anyone who is a fan of the University of Maryland Terrapins, Terps for short,
will be familiar with their current slogan“Fear the Turtle”. Truth be known, until
recently, the real life version of this familiar college mascot and Maryland’s
state reptile has had much to fear.
The diamondback terrapin, Malaclemmys terrapin, which includes several subspecies, is the only native North American turtle that has adapted
to living solely in the brackish waters of our salt marshes and bays along the east coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico, from Massachusetts to Texas.
Terrapins exhibit a wide range of color variations from black to spotted
patterns, typically on a light gray background. They are characterized by
concentric layers on the carapace (top portion of the turtles’s shell) giving them
a diamond appearance, thus the common name. They are powerful swimmers
with well developed, webbed hind legs. Terrapins are sexually dimorphic with
the females getting much larger than the males.