Painted Turtle Sightings

Order: Testudines Family: Emydidae Genus: Chrysemys Species: Chrysemys picta

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Article below from Wikipedia entry: Painted turtle

The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is the most widespread native turtle of North America. It lives in slow-moving fresh waters, from southern Canada to Louisiana and northern Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The turtle is the only species of the genus Chrysemys, which is part of the pond turtle family Emydidae. Fossils show that the painted turtle existed 15 million years ago. Four regionally based subspecies (the eastern, midland, southern, and western) evolved during the last ice age.

The adult painted turtle female is 10–25 cm (4–10 in) long; the male is smaller. The turtle's top shell is dark and smooth, without a ridge. Its skin is olive to black with red, orange, or yellow stripes on its extremities. The subspecies can be distinguished by their shells: the eastern has straight-aligned top shell segments; the midland has a large gray mark on the bottom shell; the southern has a red line on the top shell; the western has a red pattern on the bottom shell.

The turtle eats aquatic vegetation, algae, and small water creatures including insects, crustaceans, and fish. Although they are frequently consumed as eggs or hatchlings by rodents, canines, and snakes, the adult turtles' hard shells protect them from most predators. Reliant on warmth from its surroundings, the painted turtle is active only during the day when it basks for hours on logs or rocks. During winter, the turtle hibernates, usually in the muddy bottoms of waterways. The turtles mate in spring and autumn. Females dig nests on land and lay eggs between late spring and mid-summer. Hatched turtles grow until sexual maturity: 2–9 years for males, 6–16 for females.

In the traditional tales of Algonquian tribes, the colorful turtle played the part of a trickster. In modern times, four U.S. states have named the painted turtle their official reptile. While habitat loss and road killings have reduced the turtle's population, its ability to live in human-disturbed settings has helped it remain the most abundant turtle in North America. Adults in the wild can live for more than 55 years.


  • 1 Description
    • 1.1 Subspecies
    • 1.2 Similar species
  • 2 Ecology
    • 2.1 Diet
    • 2.2 Predators
  • 3 Life cycle
    • 3.1 Mating
    • 3.2 Egg-laying
    • 3.3 Growth
  • 4 Behavior
    • 4.1 Daily routine and basking
    • 4.2 Seasonal routine and hibernation
    • 4.3 Movement
  • 5 Distribution
    • 5.1 Range
      • 5.1.1 Eastern painted turtle
      • 5.1.2 Midland painted turtle
      • 5.1.3 Southern painted turtle
      • 5.1.4 Western painted turtle
      • 5.1.5 Human-introduced range
    • 5.2 Habitat
    • 5.3 Population features
  • 6 Taxonomy and evolution
    • 6.1 Classification
    • 6.2 Fossils
    • 6.3 DNA
  • 7 Interaction with humans
    • 7.1 Conservation
    • 7.2 Pets and other uses
    • 7.3 Capture
    • 7.4 Culture
  • 8 Notes and references
  • 9 External links


A painted turtle is swimming, apparently in an aquarium, and we see it front on at large scale, with its left webbed foot raised.
The painted turtle's yellow face-stripes, philtrum (nasal groove), and foot webbing

The painted turtle's shell is 10–25 cm (4–10 in) long, oval, smooth, and flat-bottomed.[6][nb 2][7][8] The color of the top shell (carapace) varies from olive to black. Darker specimens are more common where the bottom of the water body is darker. The bottom shell (plastron) is yellow, sometimes red, sometimes with dark markings in the center. Similar to the top shell, the turtle's skin is olive to black, but with red and yellow stripes on its neck, legs, and tail.[9][10] As with other pond turtles, such as the bog turtle, the painted turtle's feet are webbed to aid swimming.[11][12][13]

The head of the turtle is distinctive. The face has only yellow stripes, with a large yellow spot and streak behind each eye, and on the chin two wide yellow stripes that meet at the tip of the jaw.[6][8][9] The turtle's upper jaw is shaped into an inverted "V" (philtrum), with a downward-facing, tooth-like projection on each side.[14]

The hatchling has a proportionally larger head, eyes, and tail, and a more circular shell than the adult.[15][16] The adult female is generally longer than the male, 10–25 cm (4–10 in) versus 7–15 cm (3–6 in).[9][17] For a given length, the female has a higher (more rounded, less flat) top shell.[18] The female weighs around 500 g (18 oz) on average, against the males' average adult weight of roughly 300 g (11 oz).[19] The female's greater body volume supports her egg-production.[20] The male has longer foreclaws and a longer, thicker tail, with the anus (cloaca) located further out on the tail.[6][7][8][21]


Although the subspecies of painted turtle intergrade (blend together) at range boundaries[22] they are distinct within the hearts of their ranges.[23]

  • The male eastern painted turtle (C. p. picta) is 13–17 cm (5–7 in) long, while the female is 14–17 cm (6–7 in). The upper shell is olive green to black and may possess a pale stripe down the middle and red markings on the periphery. The segments (scutes) of the top shell have pale leading edges and occur in straight rows across the back, unlike all other North American turtles, including the other three subspecies of painted turtle, which have alternating segments.[23] The bottom shell is plain yellow or lightly spotted.[24]
  • The midland painted turtle (C. p. marginata) is 10–25 cm (4–10 in) long.[25] The centrally located midland is the hardest to distinguish from the other three subspecies.[23] Its bottom shell has a characteristic symmetrical dark shadow in the center which varies in size and prominence.[26]
  • The southern painted turtle (C. p. dorsalis), the smallest subspecies, is 10–14 cm (4–6 in) long.[27] Its top stripe is a prominent red,[23] and its bottom shell is tan and spotless or nearly so.[28]
  • The largest subspecies is the western painted turtle (C. p. bellii), which grows up to 25 cm (10 in) long.[29] Its top shell has a mesh-like pattern of light lines,[30] and the top stripe present in other subspecies is missing or faint. Its bottom shell has a large colored splotch that spreads to the edges (further than the midland) and often has red hues.[30]
Eastern painted turtle
C. p. picta
Midland painted turtle
C. p. marginata
Southern painted turtle
C. p. dorsalis
Western painted turtle
C. p. bellii
A full overhead shot of an eastern painted turtle A midland painted turtle sitting on rocky ground facing left with his head slightly retracted into his shell A southern painted turtle facing left, top-side view, stripe prominent, on pebbles A western painted turtle standing in grass, with neck extended
A hand holds a turtle, exposing the orange-yellow undershell. The under shell(plastron) of a midland painted turtle The under shell(plastron) of a southern painted turtle The under shell(plastron) of a western painted turtle

Similar species

The painted turtle has a very similar appearance to the red eared slider (the most common pet turtle) and the two are often confused. The painted turtle can be distinguished because it is flatter than the slider. Also, the slider has a prominent red marking on the side of its head (the "ear") and a spotted bottom shell, both features missing in the painted turtle.[31]

Painted turtle Red eared slider
Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta).jpg RedEaredSlider05.jpg



The painted turtle hunts along water bottoms. It quickly juts its head into and out of vegetation to stir potential victims out into the open water, where they are pursued.[32] Large prey it holds in its mouth and tears up with its forefeet. It also consumes plants and skims the surface of the water with its mouth open to catch small particles of food.[32]

Although all subspecies of painted turtle eat plants and animals, either alive or dead, their tendencies vary.[32][33]

  • The eastern painted turtle's diet is the least studied. It prefers to eat in the water, but has been observed eating on land. The fish it consumes are typically dead or injured.[33]
  • The midland painted turtle eats mostly aquatic insects and both vascular and non-vascular plants.[34]
  • The southern painted turtle's diet changes with age. Juveniles have a 13% vegetarian diet, adults 88%. This perhaps shows the turtle prefers meat, but can only obtain the amounts desired (by eating small larvae and such) while young.[35] The reversal of feeding habits with age has also been seen in the false map turtle, which inhabits some of the same range. The most common plants eaten by adult southern painted turtles are duckweed and algae, and the most common prey items are dragonfly larvae and crayfish.[36]
  • The western painted turtle's consumption of plants and animals changes seasonally. In early summer, 60% of its diet comprises insects. In late summer, 55% includes plants.[37] Of note, the western painted turtle also eats many white water-lily seeds. Because the hard-coated seeds remain viable after passing through the turtle, they are dispersed by it.[37]
Common foods of the painted turtle
Procambarus clarkii9284477アメリカザリガニ.jpg
Dragonfly larva on lake bottom in Algonquin Provincial Park cropped and reversed.JPG
Dragonfly larva
Nymphaea odorata Bot. Mag. 40. 1652. 1814.jpg
American water lily
Curve of duckweed covered water edged with several bald cypress trees.JPG
Duckweed (water surface)


Painted turtles are most vulnerable to predators when young.[38] Nests are frequently ransacked and the eggs eaten by garter snakes, crows, chipmunks, thirteen-lined ground and gray squirrels, skunks, groundhogs, raccoons, badgers, gray and red fox, and humans.[38] The small and sometimes bite-size, numerous hatchlings fall prey to water bugs, bass, catfish, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, three types of snakes (copperheads, racers and water snakes), herons, rice rats, weasels, muskrats, minks, and raccoons. As adults, the turtles' armored shells protect them from many potential predators, but they still occasionally fall prey to alligators, ospreys, crows, red-shouldered hawks, bald eagles, and especially raccoons.[38]

Painted turtles defend themselves by kicking, scratching, biting, or urinating.[38] In contrast to land tortoises, painted turtles can right themselves if they are flipped upside down.[39]

Important predators of the painted turtle
Of eggs:
Adult fox.JPG
Red fox
Of hatchlings:
Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina).jpg
Common snapping turtle
Of adults:
Raccoon, female after washing up mirror image.jpg

Life cycle


Male southern painted turtle shows his long front claws

The painted turtles mate in spring and fall in waters of 10–25 °C (50–77 °F).[40] Males start producing sperm in early spring, when they can bask to an internal temperature of 17 °C (63 °F).[41][42] Females begin their reproductive cycles in mid-summer, and ovulate the following spring.[43]

Courtship begins when a male follows a female until he meets her face-to-face.[44] He then strokes her face and neck with his elongated front claws, a gesture returned by a receptive female. The pair repeat the process several times, with the male retreating from and then returning to the female until she swims to the bottom, where they copulate.[43]View full Wikipedia article here Painted turtle

Painted turtle
Temporal range: 15–0Ma
An adult specimen pointed straight with its head raised and facing towards its right
Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[2]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Emydidae
Subfamily: Deirochelyinae
Genus: Chrysemys
Gray, 1844
Species: C. picta
Binomial name
Chrysemys picta
(Schneider, 1783)

C. p. bellii[2]
C. p. dorsalis[2][nb 1]
C. p. marginata[2]
C. p. picta[2]