Monday, February 24, 2020

Episode 513 (2-24-20): Turtles Inhabit Waters from Bogs to Oceans

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:25).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 2-21-20.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 24, 2020.

MUSIC – ~7 sec – Instrumental.

This week, that music by a Fredericksburg, Va., singer/songwriter opens an episode about a familiar and fascinating group of reptiles that are found in habitats from mountain bogs to the open oceans.  Have a listen to the music for about 25 more seconds, and see if know this group of creatures.  And you won’t need a hint, even though this is a shell game.

MUSIC - ~25 sec – Lyrics: “Grown-up turtles still play in the mud; everything they do is in cold blood. Don’t stick out their head when strangers around, spend their winters in the ground. Turtles don’t need no 401-K, they sit on the rock in the sun all day. Turtles don’t need no 401-K; it’s stuck in my head and it won’t go away.”

If you guessed turtles, of course you’re right!  You heard part of “Turtles Don’t Need No 401-K,” a light-hearted comparison between turtle life and modern human life, by Bob Gramann, from his 1995 album, “Mostly True Songs.”  Over 50 species of turtles, including certain species called tortoises or terrapins, are native to the United States and its coastal waters.  Current classification lists 22 species and some subspecies native to Virginia, with another four non-native species or subspecies having been introduced into the Commonwealth.

Except for the familiar Woodland Box Turtle, all of Virginia’s turtles require habitats that are at least partially aquatic.  There are semi-aquatic species, like the Bog Turtle and Wood Turtle; freshwater species, like Pond Sliders and River Cooters; the estuarine Diamondback Terrapin; and five species of sea turtles.  Turtles’ most characteristic feature, their shell, is used for defense but also to retain moisture.  Most turtles are omnivores, feeding both on plants and animals. Some kinds, such as River Cooters, are primarily plant-eaters, while others, like the Snapping Turtle, are primarily carnivores; and food habits can change seasonally and between young and adult turtles.  As a group, turtles are known for basking in the sun to warm their bodies for activity or metabolism; for long lives, as much as 100 years or more; and for migrations, whether a mile or so for some species, or the thousands of miles traveled by Sea Turtles.

The southeastern United States, including Virginia, is one of the world’s greatest areas of turtle diversity.  From woods and wetlands, to rivers, to the seas, these unique creatures fill roles in ecosystems, spark scientific curiosity, and generate stories in folklore, popular culture, and music.

Thanks to Bob Gramann for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 10 more seconds of “Turtles Don’t Need No 401-K.”

MUSIC - ~10 sec – Instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Turtles Don’t Need No 401-K,” from the 1995 album “Mostly True Songs,” is copyright by Bob Gramann, used with permission.  More information about Bob Gramann is available online at  This song was also featured in Virginia Water Radio Episode 123, 8-13-20 (on reptiles generally).

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.   More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


The four following turtle photographs were accessed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library (main Web page, at the specific URL’s indicated.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, February 2011, accessed online at

Snapping Turtle at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, September 2017; photo by Chelsi Burns, accessed online at

Green Sea Turtle nesting at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, February 2011, accessed online at

Woodland Box Turtle at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W. Va., July 2018; photo by Jeff Servoss, accessed online at

(At left) Turtles in the historic Rappahannock River Canal in Fredericksburg, Va., April 27, 2018.  Photo by David Cox, used with permission.

Turtles on Gayles Pond in Fredericksburg, Va., March 13, 2020. Photo by David Cox, used with permission.


Following are turtle species and subspecies known to occur in Virginia, as of February 2020. This list is a composite of the lists from three sources:

John D. Kleopfer et al., A Guide to the Turtles of Virginia, Bureau of Wildlife Resources Special Publication Number 4, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, Va., 2014.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Fish and Wildlife Information Service, “Species Information,” online at

Virginia Herpetological Society, “Turtles of Virginia,” online at

Scientific names (in parentheses and italics) are according to the Virginia Herpetological Society for the native species except for the Midland Painted Turtle; the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for the Midland Painted Turtle; and Kleopfer et al. for the non-native species.  The threatened or endangered status is according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Species Native to Virginia (occurring at least occasionally)

Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) – Federal Threatened and State Endangered
Box Turtle, Wooland (Terrapene carolina carolina)
Chicken Turtle, Eastern (Deirochelys reticularia reticularia) – State Endangered
Cooter, Eastern River (subspecies) (Pseudemys concinna concinna)
Cooter, Coastal Plain (subspecies) (Pseudemys concinna floridana)
Cooter, Northern Red-bellied (Pseudemys rubriventris)
Map Turtle, Northern (Graptemys geographica)
Mud Turtle, Southeastern (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum)
Mud Turtle, Striped (Kinosternon baurii)
Musk Turtle, Eastern (Sternotherus odoratus)
Musk Turtle, Stripe-necked (Sternotherus minor peltifer)
Painted Turtle, Eastern (subspecies) (Chrysemes picta picta)
Painted Turtle, Midland (subspecies) (Chrysemys picta marginata)
Sea Turtle, Atlantic Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata imbricata) – Federal and State Endangered
Sea Turtle, Green (Chelonia mydas) – Federal and State Threatened
Sea Turtle, Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) – Federal and State Endangered
Sea Turtle, Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) – Federal and State Endangered
Sea Turtle, Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) – Federal and State Threatened
Spiny Softshell, Eastern (Apalone spinifera spinifera)
Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpintina)
Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
Slider, Cumberland (subspecies) (Trachemys scripta troostii)
Slider, Yellow-bellied (subspecies) (Trachemys scripta scripta)
Terrapin, Northern Diamond-backed (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin)
Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) – State Threatened

Species Not Native to Virginia But Introduced by Humans

Chinese Softshell (Pelodiscus sinensis)
Map Turtle, Mississippi (Graptemys pseudogeographica kohnii)
Slider, Red-eared (subspecies with native Cumberland Slider and Yellow-bellied Slider) (Trachemys scripta elegans)
Spiny Softshell, Gulf Coast (Apalone spinifera aspera)


Used for Audio

Kurt Buhlmann, et al., Turtles of the Southeast, University of Georgia Press, Athens, Ga., 2008.

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Reptile,” online at

John D. Kleopfer et al., A Guide to the Turtles of Virginia, Bureau of Wildlife Resources Special Publication Number 4, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, Va., 2014.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Fish and Wildlife Information Service, “Species Information,” online at

Virginia Herpetological Society, “Turtles of Virginia,” online at

For More Information about Turtles and Other Reptiles

Donald W. Linzey and Michael J. Clifford, Snakes of Virginia, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, 2002; information online at

Bernard S. Martof et al.,
Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1980.

Maryland Sea Grant, “Diamondback Terrapins,” online at

Joseph C. Mitchell, The Reptiles of Virginia, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., and London, England, 1994.

Joseph C. Mitchell, “Snakes of Virginia,” online (as PDF) at

Joseph C. Mitchell and Karen K. Reay, Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles of Virginia, Special Publication No. 1, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, 1999.

Smithsonian Institution, “Bibliography on the Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles,” online at

Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “Virginia’s Sea Turtles,” online at

Virginia Sea Grant, “Terrapin Files,” in the Summer 2012 issue of Virginia Marine Resource Bulletin, online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Reptiles “subject category.

Following are links to other episodes with information on turtles.

Episode 70, 7-4-11 – on Diamondback Terrapins.
Episode 123, 8-13-12 – on reptiles generally.
Episode 371, 6-5-17 – on the “Herp Blitz” amphibian and reptile survey by the Virginia Herpetological Society.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, and cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
K.7 – basic needs and processes of plants and animals.
1.5 – animals’ basic needs and distinguishing characteristics.
2.4 – life cycles.
3.4 – behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 – living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.5 – food webs.
3.6 – ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.
4.5 – ecosystem interactions and human influences on ecosystems.
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.4 – organisms’ classification based on features.
LS.8 – community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Biology Course
BIO.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
BIO.6 – bases for modern classification systems, including structures, biochemistry, and developmental stages.
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.