A female Blanding's turtle believed to be at least 83 years old was captured at a University of Michigan forest reserve this week. Researchers say it is the oldest well-documented Blanding's turtle and one of the oldest-known freshwater turtles.
The turtle was captured Monday at U-M's Edwin S. George Reserve, about 25 miles northwest of Ann Arbor in southwestern Livingston County, near Pinckney. This individual, known as 3R11L, was first captured and marked in 1954, one year after the start of the reserve's long-running turtle study. It has been recaptured more than 50 times since then.
Blanding's turtles reach sexual maturity at around age 20. Since 3R11L was sexually mature when first captured in 1954, she is believed to be at least 83 years old, according to turtle researcher Justin Congdon, who began studying the E.S. George turtles in the mid-1970s.
"There was a lot of excitement and a lot of high-fives when we caught it, and we celebrated with a bottle of Cabernet," said Congdon, a professor emeritus at the University of Georgia who studied the E.S. George turtles every nesting season from 1975 through 2007. He came out of retirement to return to the reserve this month.
"This is just one example that shows the importance of our multigenerational investment in the biological sciences," said Andrew Martin, dean of the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
"If we hadn't continued this work over the decades, we would have no idea how long-lived these turtles are or how they respond to ecological changes," said U-M biologist Christopher Dick, director of the E.S. George Reserve.
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