Ornate/Central American Wood Turtle


In the Zoo

Scientific Information

Scientific Name: Rhinoclemmys pulcherimma manni
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Geoemydidae
Genus: Rhinoclemmys




Length: 8 inches 10 inches
Weight: 3 pounds 3 pounds

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet: Omnivorous
Activity Timeframe: Diurnal
Interactivity: Social
Sexual Dimorphism: Yes
Lifespan in the Wild: 30+ years
Lifespan in Captivity: 30+ years

Geographic Range

Mexico; from Sonora southwards and Central America, down to Costa Rica


Status in the Wild:
Threats: Habitat Loss


Central American Wood Turtles are vibrantly-patterned turtles. Their faces and legs are adorned with thin red lines and swirls of orange, green and black. The shell is moderately elongated in shape, and covered with swirl of orange and yellow with varying degrees of black ocelli (eyespots) on the carapace with a wash or pink or red in the plastron.The length of a males shell can reach up to 8", and females can reach about 10". In addition to being slightly smaller in size, males can also be distinguished from females by their thicker tails and concave plastron (lower shell.)Ornate Wood Turtles do vary when it comes to their shell patterns. Ones from Nicaragua apparently lack the bombastic shells that those from Costa Rica have.

Species Specifics

Sexual dimorphism. Males reach a carapace length of 18 cm and have a concave plastron and a longer thicker tail. Females are larger, (with a carapace length of up to 20 cm), with a flat plastron and a shorter tail.

Physical Characteristics

-These turtles are primarily terrestrial can can be found many kilometers away from water. They are able to withstand drought conditions and temperatures up to 100 degrees F for extended periods of time.



Woodland and forest habitats near water


Ornate/Central American Wood Turtles can be found throughout Central America. Their range is between Sonora, Mexico and Costa Rica.


Omnivorous. Feeds on wildflowers, grasses, fruit (guavas, mangoes, oranges), insects, worms and fish. At the Zoo, eats plant matter such as romaine lettuce, dandelion, squash, sweet potatoes, corn and apples; turtle pellets, earthworms and crickets.

Ecological Web

These turtles may serve as a biological control of agricultural pests, (especially insects!)

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern


Social Behavior

Reproductive Behavior

During courtship the male may "bob" his head, and follow the female while "nosing" her tail and shell. Later in courtship the female engages the male in nose-to-nose contact and head bobbing. During courtship, the male will bob his head at the female. If she's interested in him, she'll bob her head back. They will continue bobbing heads until they start mating.


Females lay their eggs in sandy bars along rivers and other gravel areas (driveways, roadsides and shallow pits) in June.Lays several clutches of 3-5 eggs from May to December. Eggs may be buried in soil or leaf litter. (Eggs are elongated and brittle-shelled.) This species has temperature-dependent sex determination. Within the temperature range suitable for incubation, eggs incubated at cooler temperatures produce mostly males, while warmer eggs produce females. At 24-27 degrees Centigrade, all males will form. Above 30 degrees Centigrade, all females will form.



Not considered threatened. Collecting (for food and the pet trade) and deforestation are the major threats to this turtle. Their natural predators include crocodiles, birds and mammals.


Current Threats

Habitat Loss

Our Role

How You Can Help

Fascinating Facts

-The Ornate/Central American Wood Turtle has red and yellow on its carapace and head; this pattern may resemble the colors of venomous coral snakes and thus serve to frighten predators.

-Also known as the Painted Wood Turtle, most are generally quite outgoing and curious. There are usually active creatures!


1. Jolman, M. 2003. "Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 07, 2017 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Rhinoclemmys_pulcherrima/

2. http://animal-world.com/encyclo/reptiles/turtles/OrnateWoodTurtle.php

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