Easten Box Turtle


ORDER: Chelonia

FAMILY: Emydidae

GENUS: Terrapene

SPECIES: carolina carolina

DESCRIPTION:
Grows to 8 in. (20 cm.). Short, high-domed brightly marked (brown with yellowish or orange markings) carapace with marginals nearly vertical or only slightly flared. Tan to dark brown plastron, plain or patterned with blotches. Head is small to moderate in size with non-protruding snout and a medially hooked upper jaw. Four toes on each hind foot. Males have longer, thicker tails and red versus yellowish-brown irises.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
From southern Maine, south to Georgia, and west to Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee. Prefers open woodlands, pastures, and marshy meadows.

DIET:
Omnivorous. Chiefly carnivorous when young, more herbivorous with age. Eats snails, worms, insects, spiders, frogs, snakes, lizards, small mammals, carrion and plants.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
3-8 elliptical white eggs are laid in flask-shaped nests in light soil. Several clutches are laid each year. Normally 75-90 days incubation are needed before hatching. Box turtles can live 20-30 years.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
May lay viable eggs for up to 4 years after mating; semen is stored in glands in the oviducts. In northern climes, they hibernate in October or November by burrowing into loose soil, mud, or mammal burrows. As soil temperature drops, they burrow deeper.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
Male box turtles have a concave plastron to facilitate mating. In both sexes the plastron has a hinge between the pectoral and abdominal scutes which divides it into two movable lobes. This allows them to withdraw their head, legs and tail within the shell and close completely to the outside world.

OUR ANIMALS:
1 Male. 1 Female. *This animal is located in a separate building and is not viewable by the public.

STATUS IN WILD:
North American box turtles are listed by CITES as a threatened species. Numbers are decreasing because of shrinking habitat, low clutch size and high hatchling mortality. Permits for export and import are required. Many states protect their native box turtles and do not allow collection.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Ernst, Carl and Barbour, Roger. 1989. Turtles of the World, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., pp. 194-196.

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