Oldest Turtle Of Its Kind Has Been Found In Michigan

The turtle, dubbed 3R11R, is one of about 15 left that were tagged in the 1950s.

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3R11R was captured and tagged in the 1950s. It has since been recaptured about 50 times by researchers. Via Roy Nagle/University of Michigan
John Virata

An estimated 83-year-old Blanding’s turtle was captured at the University of Michigan’s Edwin S. George Reserve May 23 by researchers who say it is the oldest documented Blanding’s turtle and one of the oldest known freshwater turtles to be captured and documented, according to a press release put out by the University of Michigan

The female turtle was originally captured in 1954 and tagged. It is named 3R11R and has been captured more than 50 times since the initial tagging, according to the press release.

“There was a lot of excitement and a lot of high-fives when we caught it, and we celebrated with a bottle of Cabernet,” Justin Congdon, a professor emeritus at the University of Georgia said in the press release. Congdon has studied the turtles at the Edwin S. George Reserve since the 1970s and recently came out of retirement in hopes of capturing one of the original, tagged Blanding’s turtles.

University of Michigan researcher Justin Congdon with 3R11R, the oldest documented Blanding’s turtle. Via Roy Nagle/University of Michigan

University of Michigan researcher Justin Congdon with 3R11R, the oldest documented Blanding’s turtle. Via Roy Nagle/University of Michigan

“We knew that we were down to fewer than 15 of the turtles that were marked in the 1950s,” he said. “We figured we still had a chance to catch one, and it has been one of our goals to do so.”

While the Blanding’s turtle population in Edwin S. George Reserve appears stable, according to the release, the turtle is protected as a special concern species in the state. The Blanding’s turtle is also on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list of protected species.

Congdon who has spent much of his life studying turtles, noted that when he examined 3R11R, he believed that she was gravid. He also said that the oldest female Blanding’s turtle that he captured had more eggs per clutch than younger females and also had more egg clutches as well.

“Reptiles basically reproduce until something kills them,” Congdon said in the press release. “So if it turns out that this individual is gravid, it would not come as a total surprise. Even so, this would be quite a bit older than has been documented in many other snakes and turtles.

The effort to document the record of this particular species has apparently paid dividends, as the researchers now have a trove of information with regard to the Blanding’s turtle in Michigan.

“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,” University of Michigan biologist Christopher Dick, director of the E.S. George Reserve said in the press release.

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  • Wow,,,very cool…..hard to,believe she’s that old.
    I used to find them in ponds ,rescue them on crossing roads growing up in Midland Mich in the 60’s. I’m sure wth land developers wiping out their habitats they will become harder to find. I’m glad however they are on the endangered list..

    Andrew Boyle May 26, 2016 6:18 pm Reply

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