HomeOutdoorsTiny Turtle Alert: ‘That’s not a rock, it’s a baby mud turtle’

Tiny Turtle Alert: ‘That’s not a rock, it’s a baby mud turtle’

by Jon D. B.
tiny eastern mud turtle hatchling
Tiny eastern mud turtle hatchling, North Georgia, filmed by Noah Fields. (Photo credit: Noah Fields, Instagram)

“So I was biking along when I noticed this little thing in the road, here,” Noah Fields of popular herping channel NKFherping begins of his tiny turtle discovery.

“That is not a rock, nor is it a turd. It is actually a hatchling eastern mud turtle!” he says as he picks up this impossibly teeny guy. The moment is showcased in one of Fields’ latest Instagram NKFherping videos, which has surpassed the 1 million views mark.

The May 15 video’s viewership isn’t surprising. Front and center is one of the tiniest turtle hatchlings you’ll ever see, and he is straight-up adorable.

“The really cool thing about these hatchlings is, if you turn them over, which we’re going to do very gently, they have this incredible-colored belly. Look at this little guy!” Fields says. You’ll definitely want to take a look yourself:

More specifically, this tiny one is “an adorable hatchling Eastern Mud Turtle, one of several I was able to move off of a busy path on a warm spring day,” Fields says. “I must have timed my trip perfectly with the emergence of several nests of these diminutive turtles.”

The herpetology (study of reptiles) enthusiast found 3 mud turtle hatchlings alive that day. Sadly, he also found “several more dead on a short stretch of trail.”

His discoveries most likely came in his North Georgia area (the U.S. state, not he country). And Fields’ sharp eyes made a difference that day. Now, these babies will grow into lovely brown turtles around the same size as our eastern box turtles, a personal favorite species.

Get to Know the Eastern Mud Turtle

The eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) is a small freshwater turtle native to the eastern United States and parts of Mexico. Part of the Kinosternidae family, muddies produce a foul odor from musk glands when threats arise.

Measuring around 3.5 to 5 inches in length, the species has a flattened, oval-shaped shell, which varies from brown to blackish. They’re also able to close their shell tightly thanks to their distinctive hinged plastron, something eastern boxies can also do.

These turtles live a semi-aquatic lifestyle, with webbed feet and a streamlined body allowing them to move efficiently on land and in water. They primarily live in freshwater habitats like marshes, ponds, and slow-moving streams (and surrounding land). There, they feed on a variety of invertebrates, including insects, snails, crayfish, and small fish. As opportunistic omnivores, they occasionally consume vegetation and carrion, too.

During breeding season (spring to early summer), females lay small clutches of eggs in nests. These are dug into sandy or loamy soil, where incubation lasts around 60 to 90 days.

Eastern mud turtles are common and widespread. But habitat loss, pollution, and collection for the pet trade all pose threats to their populations. Combined with their diminutive size as hatchlings, they face many challenges.

Thankfully, efforts are ongoing to conserve and protect these turtles. And preserving their aquatic habitats and implementing sustainable management practices are key.