Chelonian Conversations

- Art - Education - Conservation - 

The Alligator Snapping Turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in North America, and is well known for its bite strength. It has many unique characteristics, making it a favorite amongst herpers. It has a strongly hooked beak, a fascinating "wormlike lure" on the bottom of its mouth (used to trick prey), a tiny plastron (the bottom/belly shell), and beautiful starburst patterned eyes. These turtles almost never leave the water except to nest, so they are more rare to see. AST are protected in most parts of their range, and are considered either vulnerable, threatened, or endangered depending on the individual states listing. 

Turtles don't have "ears", but they can hear. Thin flaps of skin cover internal ear bones, which receive vibrations and low-frequency sounds. In this skull, you can see the quadrate bone surrounding the stapes. While AST are most active at night as an ambush predator, their hearing isn't their main sensory cue for detecting prey. 

What do you see in the far left image- A dragon, a dinosaur, or a bird? The inferior view on this skull may throw you off. This species is sometimes referred to as the "dinosaur of the turtle world" due to its physical characteristics. Even though turtles currently rank amongst the species most at risk of extinction, as a whole, they are more ancient than dinosaurs. The snapping turtle family (Chelydridae) has existed for an estimated 90 million years. With a history this long, it's no wonder turtles are also the central figure to many creation stories from various cultures. 

All three brand new images can now be found in the sub-series Chelonian Conversations on my site- https://gallery.blondeshotcreative.com/

To learn more about the species in each of my photographs, visit me on IG.

More about the new sub-series, Chelonian Conversations: 

When most people think about wildlife conservation, the usual heavy hitters are often the first ones thought of- elephants, rhinos, and big cats. But herpetofauna (reptiles & amphibians) are typically only on the minds of a select group. 

Creating this new sub-set of the series Microcosm Compositions, Chelonian Conversations is the beginning of a more focused set of images, putting various chelonians (turtles) into the spotlight, and once again combining my personal loves of art, wildlife, conservation work, and of course TURTLES! 

Turtles play a critical ecological role in the environments in which they occur, yet are among the most threatened groups of animals. More than half of their 300+ species are threatened with extinction according to IUCN Red List criteria. 

While most conservation artists are shooting living animals in natural settings, I approach this topic from a completely different angle. By bringing parts from creatures that are no longer living into a studio setting, I hope to look past the obvious, observe it in detail, and even find little surprises in the process (without causing any stress to a living animal). I can discover the complex osteology and eccentricities which lie within, and present them in an uncommon way. Through lighting and composition, I hope to breathe some life back into these lost creatures. To inspire others to pause and more carefully inspect our natural world, be awed by its complexity and beauty, and to expand the viewer's mind and knowledge base on these beings. 

(All specimens photographed are ethically sourced and no animals were harmed to make these images. Parts from endangered species were properly borrowed, and/or shot on-site from licensed organizations.)