Spotted Turtle

Children's Zoo

Location

In the Zoo
Size
Male
Female
Length:
4-5 inches
4-5 inches
Weight
91-189 grams
116-234 grams
Maturity:         
8-10 years
8-10 years

Geographic Range

Eastern North America

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Clemmys guttata
Class:
Reptilia
Order:
Testudines
Family:
Emydidae
Genus:
Clemmys

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet:
Omnivorous
Activity Time Frame:
Diurnal
Interactivity:
Social
Sexual Dimorphism:
Yes
Gestation:
70-83 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
26 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
100 years

Conservation

Endangered
Threats:


Status in the Wild: Critically Endangered (functionally extinct in the wild)
Habitat Loss

Characteristics

Small (usually 4 inches, maximum 5 inches) black turtle with yellow spots on a broad, smooth, keelless carapace. (Please note that these spots may fade in old adults and occasional specimens lack carapace spots altogether.) The plastron (or undershell) is yellow or slightly orange with large black blotches covering a portion of each scute.The head is moderate in size with a non-projecting snout and a notched upper jaw. Head is black and other skin is gray or black with the occasional yellow spot or band.

Species Specifics

Sexually dimorphic. Females are slightly larger than males, on average. Male have tan chins, brown eyes, slightly concave plastron and long thick tails. Females have yellow chins, orange eyes and a flat or convex plastron.

Physical Characteristics

Ecology

Habitat

Vegetated shallow waters, like sedge meadows, sphagnum seepages, and slow, muddy streams. (These turtles also frequently wander on land between wetlands, and may aestivate on land for weeks at a time.)

Distribution

Populations extend along the eastern seaboard from southern Maine through New England and south through portions of Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and northern Florida.

Diet

Omnivore.When they come out of hibernation, these turtles will eat just about anything, such as crickets, other insects, worms, snails, aquatic plants, crayfish and sometimes algae.

Ecological Web

Secondary consumer.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Diurnal. Only active during daylight hours and spend the night under water on the pond bottom.

Behavior

Social Behavior

Reproductive Behavior

Spotted turtle mating begins in March and continues into May. During this time, males are in an active, almost frantic pursuit of females; several males may be seen simultaneously chasing one female. Courtship involves the male chasing the female under water while nipping and biting her legs and carapace, he then mounts her shell and bites at her head and neck. Copulation occurs in shallow water may last up to an hour.

Offspring

Nesting occurs from late May to July. Two elliptical white eggs with flexible shells are laid in a flask shaped nest in well-drained soil or they are deposited on grass tussocks, hummocks and sphagnum moss of the wetland. Only one or two clutches are laid each year. *Sex of the offspring is dependent on incubation temperatures, (with mostly females at higher temperatures.) Hatchlings generally emerge from the nest in autumn, but may occasionally overwinter in the nest. During a warm summer, these turtles aestivate in the mud bottom of waterways or in muskrat burrows and during the cold winter they hibernate in similar sites.

Conservation

Status

Listed as Endangered by IUCN. This turtle is protected by state and local laws throughout its range (but protection is not yet consistent or universal over the turtle's range,) but the regulations aren't strictly enforced and entire populations are often collected for the pet trade.The specialized wetland habitat used by Spotted Turtles have been widely drained and converted by humans into agricultural and residential land, or modified into more open aquatic habitat not favored by Spotted Turtles. Many of the remaining Spotted Turtle populations are now very small and isolated, with little or no opportunities for genetic exchange with other sites. As these turtle "colonies" become increasingly isolated, they also become more vulnerable to human exploitation and to predation by other animals such as raccoons.Spotted Turtles also have certain traits that make them more vulnerable to human exploitation and habitat degradation:-high egg (and hatchling) mortality-low reproductive potential under natural conditions-delayed sexual maturity (8-10 years)-relatively long potential adult breeding life

Historical

Current Threats

Habitat Loss

Our Role

No items found.

How You Can Help

You can help the Spotted Turtle by conserving wetland habitat!- Learn about the exotic pet trade and help keep species like the Spotted Turtle in the wild.- Never release a captive turtle into the wild. It would probably not survive, may not be native

Fascinating Facts

The spots on the carapace are transparent areas in the scutes overlying patches of yellow pigment; they may fade with age and some old individuals are spotless.

Growth rings, (called annuli) are usually visible on the underside. Counting these annuli is an unreliable method of determining the age of a mature specimen, though such a count may allow an estimate of a specimen's minimum age.

This turtle is sometimes referred to as the 'polka dot' turtle.

This species will only feed underwater.

References

Harding, J. 2013. "Clemmys guttata" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 07, 2017 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Clemmys_guttata/

Ernst, Carl and Barbour, Roger. 1989. Turtles of the World, Smithsonian Press.

Hutchins, Michael. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. Vol. 7 Reptiles. 2003. The Gale Group, Farmington Hills, MI.