Florida Red-Bellied Turtle

Children's Zoo


In the Zoo
14.5 inches
14.5 inches
4 pounds
8 pounds
5-9 years
5-9 years

Geographic Range

South through peninsular Florida, and most southern Georgia.

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Pseudemys nelsoni

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Lays 12 to 30 or more eggs; egg laying peaks in late spring and early summer
Lifespan in the Wild:
Lifespan in Captivity:
25 years


Habitat Loss


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 foreclaws and long thick tails. Females are slightly larger than males.

Species Specifics

The family Emydidae includes approximately 95 species in 33 genera. Members are distributed throughout North America, northern South America, Europe, northwestern Africa, and Asia. Emydids are primarily freshwater species, though some species inhabit brackish waters or are terrestrial.

Physical Characteristics

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.



Lives in ponds, lakes, ditches, marches and slow moving streams.


Habitats: Found mostly in the Eastern United States, Box Turtles occur as far north as Michigan and Maine, South to Florida, and as far West as Texas and Kansas. Found rarely above 1,000 feet in elevation, preferring low land habitats where water collects. Commonly associated with deciduous forests having high leaf litter and moisture these turtles are often located near rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and other bodies of fresh water, however, they are not good swimmers.


Adults are highly herbivorous, preferring aquatic plants. Also eat carrion.

Ecological Web

This turtle is quite unique as it lives around alligators and with a thick shell they are not a part of the alligators diet.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Most of the day is spent basking.


The gecko will lick its eye to clean it from dust and other particles.

Social Behavior

Solitary. Although monitors are not social, neither are they territorial. Bipedal ritual combat has been observed in the trees during the breeding season. Since their tails are so important, they defend their tails, rather than use them as whips. Black Tree Monitors in the wild are reported to be nervous and high-strung; they will flee if threatened, and if handled carelessly, will scratch, bite and then defecate on the offender.

Reproductive Behavior

More research is needed.


12 eggs each year.



Three-Toed Box Turtles are not considered endangered at the national level in the United States, Canada or Mexico, although several U.S. states, including Michigan, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, list T. carolina as a species of special concern. It is considered endangered in Maine. IUCN: VulnerableCITES: Appendix II


Due to a widespread, consistent and persistent decline of the species, the ICUN considers the Box Turtle to be a Vulnerable Species. The decline is associated with anthropogenic causes, or manmade causes centering on urbanization. Agricultural use of pesticides within a shared water shed has negatively impacted young turtle survivability due to malformed eggs. Introduction of synanthopic predator species, (species who live near and benefit mutually from human settlement and urban habitats) such as ravens, coyotes and raccoons, are increasing in numbers as humans continue to urbanize.

Current Threats

Habitat Loss

Our Role

Oakland Zoo believes that each one of us has the power to become stewards of the natural world, decrease our global footprint and inspire others to do the same. Learn about the conservation initiatives we're pursuing at the Zoo, and find out how you can help.

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How You Can Help

Please be aware of the pets you choose to buy. Never get a pet that has been taken from the wild and never return a pet to the wild. Be aware of pesticide applications so as to not poison native animals that benefit your ecosystem. Finally, be conscious of your trash and waste so as to not attract unwanted animals such as ravens.

Fascinating Facts

Florida Red bellied turtles are confirmed baskers, lying many hours on a sunny day on logs or floating mats of vegetation.

The Iriquois and other Native Americans used them for food, medical, ceremonial, burial and hunting purposes.

Of all the Gerrhosaururidae lizards (Plated lizards) they are the most armored.