More from Myrtle the Turtle

So sure enough, Myrtle comes over and she literally glared, just glared at this turtle and this little turtle looks up and just tries to rest again. Myrtle just gets closer and glares…no biting, just glared until the little turtle took off, and Myrtle just settled into her spot. So, she’s definitely got some clout in there. Was this a territorial type thing, survival of the fittest? It could be as simple as that, or was this some social conflict going on there? Who knows, you know? We see so many things in this exhibit that contradict what we believe the behaviors to be in the wild. Even as a scientist, I can’t deny it sometimes.

MRB: What about the fish who have been here a long time, like the tarpons — is there much interaction with them?

SFC: Not so much. She’ll steal a squid from anybody, it doesn’t matter. She does not discriminate — if she thinks she can get a squid from you, she’s going to. You got the squid and I want it. It’s really straightforward. But with Ari, I can see they recognized each other; it’s not just any turtle getting in the way, there’s definitely something there. I think if we were to take all of those tarpon out and completely replace them, she would just assume it’s the same old tarpon. But sometimes these inexplicable behaviors are what will create animal lovers. I see behaviors in there that completely contradict what I know as a scientist, but I can’t deny that I see it. Even above and beyond Myrtle, there’s just stuff that goes on in there that as a scientist I know I shouldn’t or wouldn’t expect.

MRB: What about her history at the New England Aquarium — how she came here, where she was before?

SFC: We have the original report documenting when Myrtle arrived at the aquarium. She arrived on June 12th, 1970. And you’ll hear people say Myrtle has been here as long as the aquarium has and it’s just a figure of speech, because its pretty close. She came the year after we opened. She came from the Provincetown aquarium, and it was a trade for some smaller turtles that we had. And that’s very common for aquariums and zoos to trade surplus animals to each other. In terms of conservation, it helps partially to stock exhibits, especially when you’re talking about an endangered species. Myrtle was too big for their tank, so it worked great for us. Myrtle’s got the biggest file out of any individual animal here. For the Giant Ocean Tank, we only keep individual animal records for the sharks, the rays and the sea turtles. And nobody has a folder this fat.