Once upon a time, a box turtle layed her eggs in my garden. We didn't realize that she layed her eggs in the lettuce patch. In fact, we thought she was a boy and named her Boxer.
One day I was out weeding the garden and found this little guy. We named him Sean. The kids sang happy birthday.
Look how tiny he is. Box Turtles are born with a very soft shell so they spend most of their time hiding. Their yolk sac is still attached to them after they leave their egg. It is like their lunch box so they don't have to worry about food, just hiding and growing.
Day by day, we found Sean's brothers and sisters. The bumps on their shells are vertibrae. The shell or carapace is part of a turtles skeleton and grows out from the center as the turtle grows.
Look how handsome Sean is as a three year old. His shell is much smoother but you can still see the vertibrae. The scutes, or sections of his shell, have rings on them. One for each year of the turtles life, just like the rings of a tree.
As he gets older, Sean's shell will develop markings just like his mama Boxer's shell. Box turtles live in the woods and the markings help camouflage them in the dappled light shining through the leaves.
Boxer and her family are hibernating right now. Boxer lives wild but our yard is her habitat so we see her from time to time, especially after a good summer rain when the worms are at the surface like a lovely lunchtime buffet.
Sean and his siblings live in a giant pen in the yard. When they are old enough to crawl out of the pen then they too will live wild like their mother.