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|Home > Life in Japan > Environment|
Friday, Aug. 31, 2001
By ROWAN HOOPER
* Japanese name:Kusagame * Scientific name: Chinemys reevesii * Description: A freshwater, semi-aquatic turtle with a carapace (shell) 10-30 cm long. Females are bigger than males. This turtle has three keels, or ridges, running along its carapace, which is a yellow-brown to olive color. Some may be very dark, almost black. Females and young turtles often have yellow stripes around the neck. For sexing, look at the tail: Males have a longer tail than females, with a bulge at the base. * Where to find them:Where to find them: From Honshu to Kyushu, in farm ponds, canals, rivers and streams. During the day they often bask on stones and riverbanks. The World Conservation Union has the Reeves turtle listed as endangered; they are still used in Chinese medicine (the shell is purported to nourish the liver and kidneys), and they are often seen dead on the roads in the summer, run over by cars as they migrate to new streams. They hibernate in winter. * Food:Classic omnivores, Reeves turtles will eat almost anything: snails, slugs, crayfish, tadpoles, crustaceans, crickets, earthworms, fish, vegetation. Large food items will be torn up with the front legs. * Special features: Males will chase females tirelessly during courtship, attempting to rub snouts. Females lay between four and 14 eggs in an underground burrow that they dig with their back legs under vegetation: If you see a plant shaking, this might be why. Eggs hatch in 90 days, and some females may lay a second or third clutch. The turtle has the distinction of being the only one of the four mystical animals of Chinese legend (phoenix, dragon and unicorn are the others) that really exists, though the stories that the world rests on the shell of a turtle or that they can change into a beautiful young woman are best disregarded.