On April 11, Senior Herpetologist Bill Hughes received a report of an egg located in the Fly River exhibit. Given the sexual immaturity of the exhibit’s Fly River (or Pig-nosed) Turtles, Hughes knew the egg had been laid by one of the Red-bellied Short-necked Turtles (Emydura subglobosa).
The egg was near the middle of the exhibit, so Hughes was forced to climb inside, precariously balancing over the tank of colorful Rainbowfish to recover the egg and any others that may have been better hidden.
The Fly River exhibit is home to both Red-bellied Short-necked Turtles and Pig-nosed Turtles.
“I noticed that the substrate was disturbed near the egg, so I dug and found 11 more,” he writes.
Using a plastic container handed to him by Senior Aquarist Elaine Robinson, Hughes removed the eggs safely and with a minimal amount of movement (rotating a turtle egg can kill the developing embryo).
Finding nearly a dozen eggs was an unexpected trove, but a wild-hair decision proved the exhibit had other surprises in store.
“I scooped a cup of dirt randomly — just where my hand happened to reach — tossed it into the container and noticed an egg in the container,” Hughes says. “The place where I happened to dig also had a nest of six more eggs.”
A few days later, Hughes returned to the exhibit, knowing that the Red-bellied Short-necks prefer to nest in the ground near the door into the exhibit from a backup area. A quick bit of prospecting yielded eight additional eggs, although their viability was questionable, he says, given the excessive moisture in the surrounding soil.
More than two dozen Red-bellied Short-necked Turtle eggs were collected from the Fly River exhibit and relocated to an off-exhibit incubator.
The eggs have been moved to a pea gravel-filled container located in an off-exhibit incubator in the River Journey.
“We are not certain if any of them are good,” Hughes says, “but if they are, they should take 65-75 days to hatch.”
Aquarium Senior Herpetologist Bill Hughes checks the development of Red-bellied Short-necked Turtle embryos by shining a light on the exterior of recently laid eggs.