University of Michigan researchers got a nice surprise recently, when a Blanding's turtle first tagged and released in 1954 was recaptured in the school's forest reserve. At an estimated 83 years old, it's considered by scientists there to be the oldest well-documented turtle of its kind and among the oldest living freshwater turtles.
The turtle, a female, was captured some 25 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, Mich., in the university's Edwin S. George Reserve.
Long dubbed 3R11L, the reptile was first marked as part of a long-term turtle study initiated at the school. Its 1954 tagging was made in just the second year of the program.
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Scientists working on the reserve knew time was running short to recapture one of those 1950s turtles, so the find was welcome.
"We knew that we were down to fewer than 15 of the turtles that were marked in the 1950s," said turtle researcher Justin Congdon in a statement.
3R11L's age is based upon the fact that Blanding's turtles reach sexual maturity at about 20 years old. The turtle was already sexually mature in 1954, leading the researchers to peg the animal at at least 83 years of age.
According to Congdon, the last record-holder for oldest Blanding's was a 76-year-old turtle from Michigan, making 3R11L new champ by a healthy margin.
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