Florida Red Bellied Turtle
High arched elongated carapace is up to 13 inches in length. Medial keel is lost in adults. Carapace is variable in color, but usually black with red or yellow markings on the marginals and a transverse bar across the front costal scutes. Plastron is reddish orange and may be plain or carry a pattern that fades with age. Head is moderate in size and has a prominent notch at the tip of the upper jaw and a non-protruding snout. Skin is black with yellow stripes. Males have elongated slightly curved fore claws and long thick tails. Females are slightly larger than males.
GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia and south through peninsular Florida. Especially common in the Everglades. Lives in ponds, lakes, ditches, marshes and slow moving streams.
Adults are highly herbivorous, preferring aquatic plants. Also eat carrion.
LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Mating occurs throughout the year. Up to five or six separate clutches of as many as 12 eggs may be laid each year, preferably in decaying vegetation. The elliptical parchment-shelled eggs hatch after 60-75 days.
This species has a deeper and much heavier shell than its more northern cousins. This may have evolved as being less likely to be cracked by alligators which are only found in the south.
P. nelsoni is a confirmed basker, lying many hours on a sunny day on logs or floating mats of vegetation.
STATUS IN WILD:
Not listed as endangered, but considered rare and not seen in the pet trade.