User:PJsg1011/Squirt (domestic turtle)
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|Species||Trachemys scripta elegans|
Near Ballwin, Missouri, USA
|Weight||7 oz. (0.44 lb)|
|removed in 2008|
Squirt (c. 2002 – present) is a domestic aquatic testudine living in the care of Greg Vandas, currently in Columbia, Missouri, in the United States. He was discovered in the suburban wilderness of St. Louis County, near Ballwin, Missouri, in the summer of 2002.
Although he has yet to be thoroughly biologically categorized, the prevailing belief is that Squirt is a male of the species Trachemys scripta ssp. elegans, the common North American red-eared slider. The broad natural distribution of red-eared sliders across the Eastern and Southern United States, as well as their popularity as household pets, makes this classification likely, but authoritative scientific evidence has not yet come forward to confirm or deny this conclusion.
Squirt's exact age is also a matter of debate; because he was found in the wild already fully mature, it is difficult to accurately pinpoint the date of his birth. Conservative estimates generally place him at 10 to 11 years old, which suggests that he hatched and matured less than a year before being discovered, although others have suggested that he could be as old as 25 years. A 2007 study conducted by the University of North Florida concluded that he was born in early February 2002, but the results have been called "entirely speculative".
Since Squirt's taxonomic status was made public in early 2006, his exact biological identity has been persistently challenged by zoologists, turtle enthusiasts, and media outlets around the world. Doctors from the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff medical school even proposed in 2008 that Squirt should be designated the first of an entirely new species, citing his interest in professional ice hockey as uncharacteristic of most aquatic reptiles.
The specific location and characteristics of Squirt's natural habitat are unknown. According to his original discoverer and caretaker, who has chosen to remain anonymous, Squirt was found "in that creek behind my house," although no additional details concerning the identity of the creek have ever been revealed. It is commonly accepted (albeit unproven) that the waterway in question is Fishpot Creek in western St. Louis County, and that Squirt's native ecosystem prior to captivity was likely typical for a turtle of his type, perhaps near a low-lying pond or forested wetland.
Since his discovery, Squirt has lived in several parts of Missouri, including his hometown and Columbia, Missouri, where his current caretaker attended the University of Missouri. Though he is occasionally allowed to roam freely within a secure, limited indoor environment under continuous surveillance, he spends the vast majority of his time in a 9-inch by 15-inch by 12-inch polyurethane reptile aquarium, affectionately dubbed "Squirt's Aquarium". The aquarium is typically filled with several inches of tap water, properly detoxified with a water purifier specifically designed for aquatic pets, as well as a large imitation rock and two or three smaller rocks covering the aquarium bed. The larger rock protrudes from the water, with its exposed part positioned under a 26-watt UVB lightbulb to allow Squirt space to warm his ectothermic body.
Fundraisers begun in 2009 aimed to purchase a larger and more livable space for Squirt within the year. By 2010, the effort had raised more than $40 and a PetSmart gift card, and a new 25-gallon glass aquarium layered with several pounds of real pebbles and decorated with exotic living plants was purchased, whereupon the fundraiser was shelved indefinitely.
Diet and Behavior
Aquatic turtles spend nearly 80 percent of their adult lives in water, and Squirt is no different. When he does seek a more terrestrial lifestyle, it is usually because his UVB light is turned on. The dry platform and special light in his aquarium support natural radiative heat absorption, a phenomenon in which most cold-blooded animals participate. Squirt often spends more than six hours at a time under the imitation sunlight, and frequently lays with his legs fully extended so as to maximize his body's exposed surface area.
Squirt has expressed favoritism for many aspects of popular culture. He is a dedicated fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, and regularly attends parties and political functions dressed as Raphael, wearing his signature red mask. In recent years, he has donated his time to freelance motion capture work for the production of Nickelodeon's 2012 reboot of the animated TMNT television series, and is often asked to supply his expert opinion to the production team's reptile researchers to ensure the show's content is realistic and biologically accurate, though his roles in these capacities remain uncredited. Squirt is also a fan of contemporary music, and in past interviews has listed his favorite artists as The Turtles, Tortoise, Deep Turtle, Phoenix and the Turtle, and Trampled by Turtles.
Though he has never officially declared adherence to a particular religious conviction, many of Squirt's followers point to past blog posts (from his now-defunct website) as evidence of his deeply existential spirituality. A number of these posts refer to or directly explore his fascination with the popular cosmological anecdote of "turtles all the way down".
Squirt is an avid nature-lover and an outspoken animal rights activist. He has lectured at several local wildlife conferences and donates nearly all of his endorsement earnings to a few notable organizations, predominantly the St. Louis Herpetological Society and the Missouri Herpetological Association. His animal activism has also earned him accusations of prejudice, as he rarely speaks on any issue but the current reptile agenda and contributes little to the conservation of other species. In 2007, Squirt publicly announced his dislike for many cohabitant animal species, including gars, crows, raccoons, otters, and several birds of prey - all of which are his natural predators - as well as a more general dislike for badgers.
Squirt attended a 2009 falcon reintroduction ceremony in Houston sponsored by the Audubon Society, but refused to applaud during the final release of the captive falcons. When asked for his opinion on the ceremony, he responded that it "sucked ass" and that the newly freed falcons would "probably die soon anyway".
In 2012, Squirt teamed with Kevin Eastman, Ernie Brown, Jr., and Canadian actor Noah Reid to found the International Advocacy Coalition for the Prevention of Vehicular Turtleslaughter, which seeks to educate the public on destructive anti-turtle behaviors performed by humans, among other issues of turtle welfare policy.
In 2009, Squirt successfully and repeatedly escaped confinement by a set of strategically placed Transformers-themed chess pieces. He has since performed similar feats of escape from all manner of objects, including cardboard shoeboxes, baseball caps, and circles of upright beer cans.
Also in 2009, Squirt was observed to have slept underwater for more than 33 consecutive hours, a personal record for both sleeping and breath-holding, and enough to make him the current record-holder in the Vandas household for uninterrupted sleep, surpassing the previous duration of 17.5 hours set by Domino the cat in 2006. The accomplishment was widely reported by local media and Squirt later commented that it required an "incredible time commitment" and "nothing short of a Herculean fortitude, especially when all you want to do is wake up." Squirt long sought to oust Domino from the top spot since the cat was accused of unlawfully augmenting his capacity for extended sleep with the use of veterinary sedatives, a controversy Domino vehemently denied and for which, despite a congressional investigation in May 2008, no evidence has ever surfaced. Just months after his record-breaking endeavour, Squirt announced his retirement from professional sleeping.