Common Turtle Species
Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. They have a shell making them unique from other reptiles. Their upper shell is called the carapace, and a lower shell that protects the belly called the plastron. The carapace and plastron shape and color varies from species to species. One might think it would at least always be a hard shell, which also is untrue. There are softshell turtle species, along with many others.
Some turtle species include Clemmys insculpta which is the wood turtle; Geochelone sulcata which is the African Spurred tortoise; Chelonia mydas which is the green turtle; Emydoidea blandingii which is the Blanding’s turtle; Clemmys guttata which is the spotted turtle; Malaclemys terrapin which is the diamondback terrapin; and Trachemys s. elegans which is the red-eared slider.
The species name for the wood turtle is Clemmys insculpta. This turtle is the largest in its genus. The carapace has raised projections on the back that resemble a small pyramid, making it different from others in the Clemmys genus.
The wood turtle is omnivorous and eats things like algae, moss, blueberries, mollusks, insects, earthworms, and mice. Typically adult males are larger than adult females, but not by a whole lot.
The species name for the African Spurred tortoise is Geochelone sulcata. The African Spurred Tortoise is the only tortoise in the world that has adapted fully for terrestrial life. The turtle is famous for digging burrows to protect itself from predators and the temperature. This turtle can go weeks without food or water. When the turtle does get a chance to drink water though, it can drink up to 15% of its body weight.
The species name for the green turtle is Chelonia mydas. Adult green turtles have a different diet than juvenile green turtles. Adults are herbivores eating plants and juveniles are carnivores eating meat. Adults usually spend their time in patches of sea grass and algae to get their food, while juveniles spend their time among the coral reef. Adults preferred food is young leaves and roots of sea vegetation. Juveniles eat animals such as jellyfish, sponges, snails, bivalves, and others.
This turtle is a medium to large sea turtle that has a broad, low, heart-shaped carapace.
Most of their lives are spent in the water but females return to the land to lay their eggs. The eggs take about two months to incubate, and then hatch. As most turtles are, green turtles possess environmental sex determination. Temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchling. Warmer temperatures produce females, and cooler temperatures produce males.
Green turtles are found throughout the oceans of the world. Populations are endangered or threatened everywhere.
The Blanding’s turtle is a northern turtle that has a black carapace with tan to yellow spots on the scutes. Its species name is Emydoidea blandingii. Sometimes this turtle is confused with the box turtle because of similar appearances.
This turtle lives in clean, shallow water habitats. They like abundant aquatic vegetation, and firm aquatic bottoms in ponds, lakes, marshes, and creeks. However, preferences in habitat can change seasonally and by location. In Wisconsin, the Blanding’s turtle prefers marshes over ponds, which is just a location preference. Turtles elsewhere may choose a pond over a marsh.
This turtle nests once a year usually from late-May to early July during the night. However, not every female nests every year.
The common name for Clemmys guttata is the spotted turtle. This is a small, black turtle that has a pattern on its smooth carapace with small yellow spots. Over time the spots may fade, making older turtles appear spotless.
Male spotted turtles tend to have tan chins with brown eyes differing from the females who tend to have yellow chins and orange eyes.
These turtles live in areas that are shallow wetlands. This can consist of swamps, bogs, fens, and marshes, but not confined to just these areas.
Spotted turtles are active during they day for the most part, meaning they are diurnal. However, females are active at night while they are nesting.
Spotted turtles are preyed upon by bald eagles, skunks, and raccoons.
The species name for the Diamondback Terrapin is Malaclemys terrapin. This turtle is a small to medium size turtle which feeds on sponges, bryozoans, gastropods, crabs, carrion, and plant material.
They have a hingeless plastron which can be yellow to green or black, and an oblong carapace is gray, light brown or black. They can be found in estuaries and salt marshes.
Nesting for these turtles is different from a majority of turtles because it is during the day. Most turtles tend to nest during the night. High tide is the most usual time for this particular turtle to nest.
The red-eared slider is native to the United States. It is commonly found in the Southern regions. The species name for it is Trachemys s. elegans.
When the red-eared slider is young it is carnivorous, but as it ages they become more vegetarian. They are a medium size and have a dark green oval shell. Their legs are green with think yellow stripes. The head is also green, but it has a red stripe behind the eye.
These turtles are found in most permanent slow-moving bodies of water. They prefer areas with mud bottoms.
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