Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)
This Jamaica Bay resident, named for its exquisite pattern of diamond-shaped markings upon its shell, is the only turtle in North America that lives strictly in brackish water. Glands that excrete excess salt located behind their eyes help them to adjust to the daily changes in salinity in their environment. The golf-ball sized head of female diamondback terrapins can be spotted bobbing up and down with the waves throughout the waters of the bay through the months of June and July. On a bright sunny day, if you remain still and quiet, you may be lucky enough to catch one on the land laying a clutch of about 10 light pink eggs in the sand. Historically, adult terrapins were once over harvested for their meat. Currently, the biggest threats to their population size include raccoon predation and loss of salt marsh habitat.
Biologists from universities study the terrapin population at Jamaica Bay. If you would like to join the Terrapin Volunteer Program, contact Dr. Russell L. Burke at Hofstra University.
Last updated: February 26, 2015