Overwintering behavior of diamond-backed terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) hatchlings is highly unusual; a substantial percentage of hatchlings leave nests in the fall, travel overland, and rebury themselves on land farther from water. Many aspects of this behavior are poorly documented and conflicting. We tracked 81 newly emerged M. terrapin hatchlings from their nest sites in Jamaica Bay, New York, to their overwintering refugia and until spring/summer emergence. Hatchling M. terrapin used the wrack line only as short-term cover before moving upland and burying themselves in terrestrial refugia. Hatchling refugia depths were variable, up to 10 cm deep, with some vertical movement seasonally. Hatchlings selected winter refugia with relatively high levels of vegetative cover; in this way, overwintering sites differed substantially from temporary refugia. Hatchlings emerged from overwintering refugia between 17 March and 7 July following fall emergence. Our observations better characterize what may be a unique behavior among turtles, but any adaptive value remains obscure.
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