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Rare turtle exhibit opens Saturday at The Pier

Bill DeYoung

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Ornate diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin macrospilota. Photo: Shutterstock.

The Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, on the St. Pete Pier, is opening a new public exhibit Saturday, spotlighting one of the bay’s least-visible animal residents.

With its translucent grey skin mottled with black dots, white beak and a colorful shell ringed with bright orange scutes, the secretive ornate diamondback is one of the most distinctive turtles in North America, if not the entire world.

This brackish water reptile is endemic to Florida; it inhabits the marshlands up and down the Gulf coast, feeding on snails, crabs, clams and mussels. Because only 2 percent of hatchlings reach maturity, the ornate diamondback turtle is listed as a “vulnerable species.”

 A new, custom built 240-gallon aquarium now houses “Ruby” and “Bertha,” a pair of ornate diamondbacks, and Saturday’s introduction ceremony (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) will include an informational discussion on the animals at 1. The discussion and public feeding,” “A Date With Diamondbacks,” will be repeated daily at the same time.

The first 300 children that arrive at the Discovery Center Saturday will receive a free 5-ounce cup of “Turtle” candy ice cream from Lickety Splits of Lakewood Ranch.

Admission tickets are available here.

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