Diamondback Terrapin Malaclemys terrapin

Marianna, Florida. September 2002.

A Man And His Turtle
Meet Tripod - a Diamondback terrapin. He and four other hatchlings were found by Karl in 1991 at the Nassau River, on the Atlantic coast just north of Jacksonville, Florida, when they were no bigger than a nickel (or a 10 pence piece if you're British). Karl kept Tripod because he was missing one front leg (hence the name), while the others went to nature centres in Virginia and St. Petersburg, Tampa, Florida.

Having only one front leg doesn't hinder Tripod in any way, and he has grown up to be a special character, closely bonded to Karl. He will follow Karl around the house, and gaze up at him fondly, just like in the photograph. When Karl sits on the floor, Tripod will come and sit in his lap. Most people don't consider that turtles have much intelligence or personality, but Tripod proves that some have more than their fair share of both.

Joe Butler, a professor at the University of North Florida, studied diamondback terrapins for three years at the site where Tripod was found, and nicknamed the place "Studenroth Beach" after Karl. Interstingly, he discovered that, like Tripod, around 50% of all the terrapins there were missing one or more limbs, indicating that something was preying on them after hatching.

Tripod is of the more ornate Eastern subspecies normally found on the Atlantic coastline. Diamondbacks on the Gulf coast in more westerly states (Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana) have a much darker, blackish carapace (shell), darker limbs and a black spot on the head, without Tripod's beautiful light blue skin.