Eastern Box Turtle

Terrapene carolina carolina

Description

4-1/2 - 6 inches, record 7-13/16 inches. A land turtle with a high domed carapace, highest behind the plastral hinge. Extremely variable coloration and pattern. Both carapace and plastron may be yellow, orange, or olive on black or brown. The light or dark color may be dominate. There are four toes on the hind limbs. Rear margin of carapace goes almost straight down. Upper jaw is hooked. There may be a remnant dorsal keel. Rear lobe of male plastron has a central concave area, female plastron flat to convex. Male eyes sometimes red, female eyes yellowish brown. Plastron is hinged, both ends can be drawn shut, providing excellent protection.

Terrapene carolina has been on the north American continent for at least 5 million years [1].

Habitat

Forested areas, thickets, meadows, pastures, floodplains, swamps.

Behavior

Terrestrial and diurnal. Often seen after a rain. Enjoy taking a short swim or soaking in water. Mild-mannered, long lived. Will not stray far if conditions are right.

Reproduction

Nests May to July, 3 - 4 inches deep, 3 to 8 oval, thin walled eggs 1-3/8" long. Nest is expertly hidden when finished. Hatchlings usually remain in nest over the winter. Plastron of hatchlings not hinged. Reach maturity in 5 to 7 years. Male follows female and gives her gentle bites on the shell, neck and head.

Food

Omnivorous, slugs, snails, earthworms, spiders, crawfish, centipedes, roaches, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, ants, termites, cicadas, moths, caterpillars, grubs, maggots, fish, frogs, toads, salamanders, small snakes, small birds, carrion, mushrooms (including those poisonous to man - the meat of the box turtle can be lethal), berries, melons, roots, seeds, plums, tomatoes, grasses. Young are more carnivorous than the adults.

Contributors

References

  1. C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr., North American Box Turtles; A Natural History, University of Oklahoma Press, 2001. Volume 6 in the Animal Natural History Series, Victor H. Hutchison, General Editor. ISBN 0-8061-3501-8.

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