Wednesday, April 27, 2016

All About Painted Turtles

Painted turtle
Painted turtle
Courtesy of Andrew Karwath

Painted Turtles are a small North American species. They are well known for the unique, colorful and beautiful patterns on their plastrons (the lower half of their shells). They are also popular as pets because of these painting-like markings and their relatively small size.

Painted Turtles live in the southern parts of Canada, most of the Continental United States and Northern Mexico. They dwell in freshwater, such as ponds, streams and rivers (slow flowing). They bask nearby or on floating logs, usually in the morning hours. When they move from one location to another, people may spot them outside of their typical habitat.

Painted Turtles are remarkable in their appearance. Their carapaces (the upper half of their shells) are typically green or black. The outer edge of the shell has red vertical stripes. The plastrons of these turtles can be solid yellow or orange, yellow with a dark pattern in the center or it can have a bright red and yellow design that gives them their name. The flesh of these turtles is green or black and they have bright yellow or red stripes on their heads and legs.

The carapace of a Painted Turtle is usually 4-7 inches in length, but they can be up to 10 inches. The females of the species are noticeably larger than males. However, they mature slower.

These creatures are omnivorous. They eat vegetation, carrion, insects, worms, tadpoles and small fish. They must bask after eating. They cannot properly digest their food properly unless their temperature is regulated.

Mating seasons for Painted Turtles occur in the spring and fall. Nesting usually occurs in the spring and during the start of summer. They spend much of their time in the water, but females must nest on land. They lay 2-5 clutches of eggs a year and leave these eggs immediately after covering the nest. The gender of the Painted Turtles offspring is determined by the eggs temperature during the incubation period. Typically, hotter temperatures (85-degrees Fahrenheit or more) produce female offspring, while lower temperatures (less than 85-degrees Fahrenheit) produce males.

Interesting Facts About Painted Turtles

-Painted Turtles hibernate in the muddy bottoms of ponds and streams. At the right temperature, they can survive for up to five months in this state without oxygen.

-Painted Turtles cannot eat unless their entire head is submersed in water.

These turtles are very popular as pets because of their size and appearance, but pet owners should be cautious of how they obtain these turtles. In some states it is illegal to capture wild turtles to keep as pets.


Painted Turtles, retrieved 5/16/09,

Painted Turtle-Chrysemys Picta, retrieved 5/15/09,