Adult Painted Turtles leave their ponds in May, June and July to find a sandy spot in which to dig a hole and deposit their half dozen or so eggs. In most of their range, Painted Turtles hatch and emerge from their nest several months later, from August through early September. In the northern part of their range, however, the young turtles hatch in the fall but usually overwinter in their underground nest and emerge in the spring.
When turtles hatch, they use a modified scale called an egg-tooth, or carbuncle, located on the front of their upper jaw, to puncture their leathery egg shell. (Although referred to as an egg-tooth, it is not a real tooth.) Typically the egg tooth disappears in a matter of days or weeks after hatching. However, Painted Turtle hatchlings in northern New England retain their egg teeth through the winter, and emerge in the spring with it still intact, as this photograph demonstrates. (Thanks to Nancy and Rob Foote for photo op.)
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