Sunday, November 13, 2005


Originally uploaded by tardigrade.
Ernestine, the leopard tortoise had another batch of eggs...

Ernestine's eggs from last night are on the left. Miss Chicken's are in the middle. And the right two eggs are from the market and they are Large Grade AA.

It is cool outside right now at night. The sun makes the day warm and the tortoises bask. But, last night Ernestine broke through her cage and started digging a hole with her back feet to deposit her eggs.

Ernestine had found a spot of just dirt and she started to dig in it with her long back claws. The soil is dry so she urinated in it to make the soil easy to dig. Ernestine has a huge capacity so the area was as wet as if I had poured a quart of water at her rear.

For three hours she dug and finally she put her head in and pushed hard. Her tail wagged and a clear mucus dripped and then her first egg appeared. It seemed as if this was not only a Herculean effort, but a painful one at that. The egg dropped slowly into the wet soil of the six by 12 inch hole. Each egg was wrapped in this clear mucus that allowed the egg to touch down slowly on the others without a sound. The egg shells are similar to chicken eggs except when the mucus is removed they are more porous.

After the ninth egg she was so tired. She tried to close up the hole but it was around 52 degrees F outside at 10 p.m. and so I decided to bring her inside. I put her in the sink and filled it with warm water. Her eyes were sunken from dehydration and I hoped she would drink as she normally would do. She kept moving her legs as if she was still outside trying to fill the hole with her eggs.

Ernestine does not have a mate and so her eggs are sterile. In the same way as Miss Chicken lays sterile eggs because she, too, does not have a mate. Miss Chicken has several 'times' a year when she is ready to lay eggs. Her personality changes and she does this little dance when I come close to her - I suppose she sees me as her 'mate.' Miss Chicken 'chucks' at the kitchen door to be let in and then finds her spot. She will spend approximately an hour laying her one egg. Ernestine, on the other hand lays many eggs all at once.

Inside Ernestine's egg is very much like Miss Chicken's egg. There is a white and a yolk. Some people like to eat turtle eggs.... like those who like chicken eggs. Sometimes it is hard for me to eat one of Miss Chicken's.... I don't think I can eat Ernestine's..... I will stick to tomatoes and almonds and other plant materials ....

No comments: