Lancaster (WHTM) Yes, there were jokes about us being up to our wherevers in alligators.
In 1984 Reporter George Richards and I went to Franklin and Marshall College to do a story about a recently arrived Assistant Biology Professor named Scott Turner. An assistant professor arriving at a college is nothing unusual; an assistant professor arriving at a college with 39 alligators in tow is another matter.
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His charges were housed in the attic of an F&M building which had a door leading to the outside, so the reptiles could get out and warm themselves in the sun. Not that it helped them much the day we were there – it was very cool, and the gators were kind of sluggish.
I can’t speak for George, but I had a grand time chasing alligators.
Professor Turner was researching how cold-blooded animals can regulate their body temperatures. His Curriculum Vitae has a series of scientific papers touching on his research:
J S Turner and C R Tracy. 1983. Blood flow to appendages and the control of heat
exchange in the American alligator. Physiological Zoology 56: 195-200.
J S Turner. 1984. Raymond B Cowles and the biology of temperature in reptiles.
Journal of Herpetology 18: 421-436.
J S Turner and C R Tracy. 1985. Body size and the control of heat exchange in
alligators. Journal of Thermal Biology 10: 9-12.
J S Turner, C R Tracy, B Weigler and T Baynes. 1985. Burst swimming of alligators
and the effect of temperature. Journal of Herpetology 19: 450-458.
J S Turner and C R Tracy. 1986. Body size, homeothermy and the control of heat
exchange in mammal-like reptiles. In: N J Hotton III, P D MacLean, J J Roth and
E C Roth, eds., The Ecology and Biology of Mammal-Like Reptiles. Smithsonian
Institution Press, Washington, D.C. pp. 185-194.
C R Tracy, J S Turner and R B Huey. 1986. A biophysical analysis of possible
thermoregulatory adaptations in sailed pelycosaurs. In: N J Hotton III, P D MacLean, J J Roth and E C Roth, eds., The Ecology and Biology of Mammal-Like Reptiles. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. pp. 195-206.
(You’ll note the last two articles refer to pelycosaurs, the “mammal-like reptiles” that pre-dated the dinosaurs. These include the sail-backed dimetrodon; we had a fascinating discussion about how his experiments might shed light on whether the sails helped heat and cool the prehistoric animals.)
Turner’s scientific career went far beyond alligators. He taught at multiple colleges and universities around the world, and his research into mound-building termites in southern Africa has contributed greatly to the concept of group intelligence. He officially retired in 2019, but is still keeping active.
To view Dr. Turner’s Curriculum Vitae, click here.