Diane Hine (25 July 1956)
An Interesting Ancestry
To some of us, a tortoise lives on land
while turtles only rarely leave the sea.
‘Chelonians' applies to any brand,
so here I'll use this terminology.
Land dwellers share aquatic ancestry
and most of us decided to stay put.
Chelonians agreed to disagree.
A flippered revolution was afoot.
A late Triassic turtle fossil shows
a hard-shelled belly plate and softer back,
presumably to ward off fatal blows
from deeper-dwelling predators' attack.
Did top shell metaphorically ‘dissolve'
when full-shelled forebear sought the sea's embrace?
Or did an unshelled forebear's shell evolve
in oceanic pilgrimage retrace?
Genetic sleuthing points to latter case.
The evidence suggests that once again,
the tortoise forebears left their liquid space
and plodded (swam?) to shore with sigh, 'amen'. *
From sea to shore to sea to shore once more.
You'd surely think a record lies therein.
Yet maybe making not three trips but four
is water loving cousin terrapin.
When next you gaze with love in tortoise eyes
and wonder at his mind's soliloquy,
from languid, longing looks you may surmise,
he's pondering ‘To sea or not to sea'.
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