Clever Snake Mom?

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Noah M
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Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Noah M » February 11th, 2017, 8:04 am

I came across this with a friend earlier this week. What at first appeared to be just a musk turtle shell turned out to be an incubator of sorts. I would guess they were black racer eggs, but I don't really know.

Has anyone ever seen anything like this before?

ImageLoggerhead Musk Turtle by Noah Mueller, on Flickr

ImageSnake Eggs in a Turtle Shell by Noah Mueller, on Flickr

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Bryan Hamilton » February 11th, 2017, 11:30 am

I have not seen that. Interesting but mildly creepy to me. I have a bit of tryophobia.

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jayder85
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by jayder85 » February 11th, 2017, 11:39 am

Really interesting observation. I have never seen anything like this before.

durissus
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by durissus » February 12th, 2017, 11:18 am

Not Racer .... those eggs look smooth while racers are grainy ( like salt was on the shell ) ... besides a gravid racer wouldn't fit in the shell.

Are you hatching them to find out what they are ? How many were there ?

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Kelly Mc » February 12th, 2017, 1:14 pm

A snake does not require her whole body to fit into a cavity, to deposit her eggs in it.


Interesting find! :beer: :thumb:

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Scott Waters
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Scott Waters » February 12th, 2017, 1:45 pm

This is Reason #6,758,974 why I love the this forum! AWESOME find, thanks for sharing. I've put it on the Herp Nation facebook page. Thanks again for sharing such a cool observation.

Could you email me? I have something to discuss with you. [email protected]

scott

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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by BillMcGighan » February 12th, 2017, 2:36 pm

Noah,
Those eggs were lain by a BotSnake.
It's a well known fact they lay their eggs in a turtle shell and, when the kids hatch, they eat the shell.
;)


I know it's true because I saw it in a early morning tweet!

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Berkeley Boone
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Berkeley Boone » February 13th, 2017, 4:31 am

Could they not just be from the Musk Turtle? One of the eggs looks heavily calcified, thus rendering it more difficult to lay. The turtle could've gotten egg bound and died. The shell seems pretty fresh.

It would be super cool if they were snake eggs, but the above scenario just seems more plausible.

What did you do with the find? Bring them home to incubate?

--Berkeley

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Noah M
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Noah M » February 13th, 2017, 6:25 am

There were 3 eggs inside, one had cracked a bit and was oozing yellow egg stuff. The other two were still intact.
After a few quick photos I put it back as it was found to let nature run its course.

I don't know much about turtle biology, but those three eggs took up a lot of space in the cavity of the shell. How big are musk turtle eggs? I've seen hatchling musk turtles, and if they're any indication, these eggs were bigger and more oval shaped. I thought turtle eggs were usually very round. I suggested black racer because they're common down here and they looked the same size and shape of the 7 racer eggs I hatched last summer. Those eggs were not grainy at all. But, only 3 eggs seems like a small clutch to me. Perhaps it was a smaller snake or other eggs were under logs and debris nearby?

I'm sorry I can't answer all of your questions. I took a few pictures and tried my best not to disturb it.

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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by MCHerper » February 13th, 2017, 9:49 am

Awesome find, but puzzling! What would possess a snake to lay eggs in an empty turtle shell and then flip the shell back over so that it's upright again? I am liking the egg-bound turtle theory, but this far along in the decomposition of the turtle (essentially complete), would the eggs look this good?

Nonetheless, great find!

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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by durissus » February 13th, 2017, 11:35 am

I find the turtle egg theory to be hard to imagine too because of the decomposition , but when he said one was 'cracked' it sounds like a turtle egg rather than a snake egg.

I still don't see a snake feeling secure enough to lay eggs with only her tail end concealed. It's not like there wasn't any other place to lay them. Anytime I've gotten eggs , a snake with eggs or in the act of laying it's been in a more secure place ; log, railroad tie, burrow, etc.

I couldn't have helped but to hatch them to see what they were :?

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Kelly Mc » February 13th, 2017, 12:09 pm

I love it when humans get snake - confounded.

An elegant legacy that continues, despite our rampant romps.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Kelly Mc » February 13th, 2017, 6:15 pm

Temperature, moisture, and an extremely sound concavity that was too attractive to pass up! A gentle embrace to position yourself intra cloacally - and go!

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Noah M
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Noah M » February 16th, 2017, 1:43 pm

It was next to some logs. Maybe only a few inches apart. The first photograph is exactly as it was found, with 3-4 logs just out of view (macro lens for salamanders). I was salamandering and looking at the logs first, only to discover the turtle shell. Perhaps the snake felt comfortable amid the logs?

If it was an eggbound turtle, could the eggs have survived while the turtle literally decayed around them?

This is like a bar puzzle. :crazyeyes: How did the eggs get in the shell?

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lateralis
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by lateralis » February 16th, 2017, 7:02 pm

Those are most definitely not turtle eggs, they would have rotted long ago and/or been eaten by the innumerable scavenging insects that likely cleaned that shell out - it looks pretty dang clean to me.

Since the shell was located near logs which make a great incubation site for snake eggs, I suspect some type of snake laid those eggs. You could always go back and check the shell occasionally and see what happens. If you find empty eggs with slits at some point - the mystery is solved.

Cool observation for sure, and first time I have heard of or seen such a thing, thanks for taking the time to post it up!


Cheers
Lat

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Kelly Mc » February 16th, 2017, 7:36 pm

I agree with Lateralis, and it would not be possible for the eggs to be in that immaculate condition, without even a speck or stain of the products of active decomposition.

Snakes are trigger oriented, something about the elements of the shell cavity cued her response to deposit them there. In my mind, it doesnt seem that kinetically difficult, I can picture it, her caudal press up along the shells interior concavity, or over it with her cloaca at the entrance of the femoral opening of the shell. The eggs were probably more pliable, a little smaller, one pushing the next along into its confines.

But I wonder if you had spotted the eggs in a similiarly sized aperture but in a more conventional object, like a crack in a log, would it seem as unusual? If you take the fact that its a turtle shell away and just looked at it as a cavity with its features.

They are snake eggs, so unless someone popped them in for really well timed prank it is a super cool find.

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WSTREPS
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by WSTREPS » February 17th, 2017, 9:36 am

Could they not just be from the Musk Turtle? One of the eggs looks heavily calcified, thus rendering it more difficult to lay. The turtle could've gotten egg bound and died. The shell seems pretty fresh.

That's the right call. The size and shape and number of eggs is correct for the species. Even when left out in the open. Turtle and tortoise eggs can take forever before showing any signs of decomposition. Bugs usually don't bother them and a lot of times predators miss or ignore them. The eggs have to be laid at the right time. If the animal retains the eggs for to long what happens is. The eggs start out being flexible but become increasingly calcified. Then passage of the eggs becomes impossible. The eggs get stuck causing oviductal rupture. Tissue tears and the animal bleeds out or an egg fractures internally and the yolk leaks out resulting in a lethal infection. There are many ways egg binding kills a turtles.

Ernie Eison

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yoloherper
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by yoloherper » February 17th, 2017, 9:55 am

I've never found snake eggs, but most pictures I've seen show them being found under rocks, deep inside rotting logs, or in other secluded spots that maintain a fairly constant incubation temperature. The developmental stage is the most temperature sensitive in some herps, and I would imagine is the same in snakes, and eggs/embryos often can only tolerate a relatively narrow range of temperatures. So regardless of the question of whether the snake could get the eggs inside the shell, a turtle shell seems like an improbable place to lay them, and even less likely they would be succesful. Probably provides very little thermal insulation compared to the adjacent bare ground. I just did a quick google of incubation temperatures and found a few numbers between 80 and 90 degrees for different common captive species. I doubt that shell could keep that stable of a range. So as cool as snake eggs in a turtle shell sounds, I gotta go with turtle eggs.
-Elliot

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Kelly Mc » February 17th, 2017, 12:09 pm

No one knows if the eggs were alive, and bodies decomp can happen fast. But yeah though i think its possible for snakes to lay eggs in odd spaces, the alternative seems more likely to me too now after you guys' posts, as residues of dead turtle rot could be cleaned to a fine scale by beetles,ants and other micro fauna.

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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by nhherp » February 17th, 2017, 5:35 pm

To the OP, Did the logs you mentioned as adjacent, by any chance have eggs or show sign of remnant shells around or within?
3 Eggs is a relatively small clutch for a snake to drop, a female will typically ensure all her eggs will fit within the chosen cavity, if this was a snake which I am leaning away from.

A Broad-head skink may also be a plausible consideration which has not been mentioned. Plestiodon select and utilize pocket type sites which I would consider in regards to how these eggs came to be in a hollow turtle shell.

The adjacent logs may reveal other eggs, hatched at least, and also assist in determination of origin. BH's often have multiple females nesting in the same log.

-N-

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Kelly Mc » February 17th, 2017, 6:09 pm

I rarely bring up captive experiences in reference to wild circumstance, as i acknowledge the anomalous factors involved, but they can grid out relevant, and I have found eggs of lizards and snakes in very unexpected spaces.

I wasnt going to bring it up but I boarded a families pair of cornsnakes, bought as sibling babies, they had very much come of age and size and when I cleaned the cage putrid eggs found strewn, but 2 were in the narrow inhospitably shaped hollows of a small ceramic character that one would not possibly think she could/would use. And lizards too, some with much less mobility than a snake.

Skinks are pretty savvy with crevices. But in re-consideration the turtle egg 'coffin non-birth' is a possibility I would accept too.

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Noah M
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Noah M » February 18th, 2017, 6:12 am

The other logs did not reveal any eggs or shell fragments.

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WSTREPS
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by WSTREPS » February 18th, 2017, 8:52 am

100% not snake eggs....100% not lizard eggs.....100% Musk turtle eggs......100% Egg bound

The shell is female. The eggs are heavily calcified and past the point that they could have been deposited. The cracks are an indicator of this. The shell was found near logs, they often use logs as nesting sites. The shell is not very old. There is only a few ounces of meat on a musk turtle. Ants can clean one in a few days. One egg was oozing from experience this an indicator that's its not months old but maybe a few weeks or less. Why this turtle became egg bound cant be known. There are different reasons it happens.

Turtles, tortoises will sometime randomly lay eggs. They don't nest they just kind of drop them. When this happens I just let the eggs sit where they fall. For those who don't understand about the rate of decomposition in calcified eggs below is a pic. This egg was dropped probably 2 months ago and has been sitting out in the open exposed to the elements and predators. It still looks perfect.

Image

Ernie Eison

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom

Post by Kelly Mc » February 18th, 2017, 12:14 pm

hmm.

I know about the long term integrity appearance of the eggs of chelonia. As I have hatched them across taxa. The longest I kept was a spider tortoise egg given to me by a friend. It was watery when candled but, haha I didnt let go of hope for an inordinate period of time.

I think most posters were questioning the decomposition products of the turtle in residual trace, or stain.

I realize carrion crud is delicious to tiny minions, but wow, they arent even stained.

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Noah M
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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Noah M » February 26th, 2017, 6:06 pm

I just find the stuff and then let you guys sort it out. I'll go with turtle eggs for now. It seems like that is where most of the arrows point.

Here is a Florida water snake I saw today while out birding.

ImageFlorida Water Snake by Noah Mueller, on Flickr

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Kelly Mc » February 26th, 2017, 6:20 pm

Ernie doesnt scare me i guess :lol: :P

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 7th, 2017, 11:32 am

Since one is "common" and one is "freak" .. I would think there would be some other incidences of turtle eggs being found in an empty shell, the absolute absence of decomp or insect dung staining on a porous shell; beetles for example crap profusely while feeding - they do, and there are no factors of rains or sun bleaching, and not any straggler ants or nit visible from the feast.

I have a snake personal that hatched from a group of conventionally shaped eggs with some individual variation - the animal I have hatched from an egg that was not the largest and oddly spherical for a snake egg and he was/is completely normal, so I delete egg shape as written in stone, the eggs in the turtle do look like snake shaped eggs but if a turtle indeed died of dystocia large, more elliptical eggs could be a product. Im not saying it isnt possible, but it is also very possible for it to have been used as a cavity to lay by a snake. The right time and conditional factors of that moment inciting her to deposit them there, not canonized views on the snake eggs we find in 'suitable' places Think of all the ones we dont find. Think of all the ones that fail, or are destroyed.

To make statements that include "100%" about any biological specimen without full examination is all ego - no science.

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WSTREPS
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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by WSTREPS » March 9th, 2017, 2:40 pm

In case anyone stumbles on this thread and is curious. The appearance of the eggs (if they are to clean blah blah ) is a moot point. In order for a guess to have merit it must take into account the verifiable facts. The snake egg guess fails.

You can rule out snake eggs 100% for multiple reasons. First and foremost. The composition of the eggs. As already stated. The photo clearly shows the eggs hard fully calcified shells. It was also mentioned one egg was cracked. If you know snakes the eggs shell tells you it is 100% not possible that they are snake eggs.

The eggs are far to large to be lizard eggs (as it applies here). Their the size of Gila monster eggs.

That narrows it down to one thing. What's left ? Alligator? Maybe a Platypus ? A ground nesting bird ?

They are turtle eggs. They are clearly over developed turtle eggs that couldn't be passed. This is confirmed by the hardness of the shells. They need to be laid before the shells reach that point or the turtle becomes egg bound as is the case here. Again this is where experience comes into play. Berkeley Boone nailed it in his post. Good call BB.
I don't know much about turtle biology, but those three eggs took up a lot of space in the cavity of the shell. How big are musk turtle eggs? I've seen hatchling musk turtles, and if they're any indication, these eggs were bigger and more oval shaped. I thought turtle eggs were usually very round.
There is nothing out of character about the eggs. Not all turtle species lay round eggs some like musk turtles lay oval shaped eggs. The size, shape or number are all 100% correct and typical for the species.

Ernie Eison

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 9th, 2017, 3:02 pm

the egg "shape" could go either way.

The "composition" being determined through a photo on a forum would be insufficient in a professional context.

You prove my point, no matter who's eggs they are.

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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Coluber Constrictor » March 9th, 2017, 6:52 pm

I have raised musk turtles from eggs before. Those are musk turtle eggs.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 9th, 2017, 7:15 pm

Sure, and its an equally interesting specimen if that's the case.

The wizard of oz with borderline personality disorder just really gets under my skin.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 11th, 2017, 10:56 pm

I find it amusing at the lack of awareness that ernie is looking at what basically constitutes eggs in what would be classified as a forensically factored state - that have been knocked around and rendered inviable. If there was enough moisture the eggs wouldnt dessicate. Matter caseates in a dead egg - if anyone as ever seen a slug (for example - not that they started as such :roll: ) tell me it does not look hardened and "calcified". A "killed" egg kept from dessicating hardens similiarly, from the inside out.

I remarked that know it is possible for a snake to be impelled to lay eggs in an anomalous cavity, animal impulses are funny that way - it is possible - that doesnt mean anything "absolute" Yes they might be the eggs of the turtle - a neat trick - so completely unstained like pulling a table cloth and leaving the china intact. But it is possible. An entomologist might have a better reasoning "table" to draw from than ernie, and specimens of bird eggs found in carcasses left immaculate by specific diptera types would be a strong conclusive piece of evidence.

But not ernie.

Where there are other factors there are questions - not ernies mini 100% megaphoning on a stool behind a curtain.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Clever Snake Mom?

Post by Kelly Mc » March 12th, 2017, 12:48 am

Oh - and the strongest clue that they would be turtle eggs is that she lingered a long time with them inside before succumbing, hence the timing found, not the way you think they "looked", Mr Wizard.

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