HABITAT AND RANGE:
The Painted Turtle is one of the most
common species of turtle in North
America and can be found from southern
Canada to northern Mexico in temperate
and freshwater areas. They prefer to
live in shallow, quiet freshwater with a
thick layer of mud. This includes lakes,
ponds, rivers, streams, marshes and
These are brightly marked turtles. They
have a relatively flat upper shell with
red and yellow markings on a black or
greenish brown background. Females take
longer to mature and will reach a size
of up to 9 inches, whereas males will
only reach a size of about 5 or 6
inches. They can live up to 35 or 40
years, but it is rare.
Because the ribs of the Painted Turtle
are fused to their shell, they cannot
breathe by expanding their chests.
Instead, they alternate contraction of
the flank and shoulder muscles to force
air in and out. They like to bask in
large groups on rocks, fallen trees,
other objects and even on top of each
other. Turtles sunning themselves help
to remove bacteria and leeches. They are
diurnal (active at day) and at night
will rest on the bottom of a pond or a
submerged object. Painted Turtles who
are located in colder areas will burrow
into the mud and allow their bodies to
get very cold in order to hibernate.
They have a poor sense of sound, but a
good sense of smell and color vision.
They will use touch to communicate,
especially when mating.
Young Painted Turtles are mostly
carnivorous, feeding on fish,
crustaceans and aquatic insects.
However, they will develop a more
omnivorous diet as they grow older and
will also feed on plants. Because their
tongue does not move independently, they
have trouble eating food on land and
will therefore eat mostly in the water
so they can manipulate the food.
REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT:
Mating begins after hibernation, but
before feeding, when the water
temperatures are still low. In the early
summer, females will lay between 4-15
oval, soft-shelled eggs. The gender of
these turtles is dependent on the
temperature during incubation. If the
temperature of the nest is too low, the
hatchlings will be male, too warm and
they will be female. The hatchlings will
dig themselves out of their nest
(covered by the female after laying) and
they are independent immediately. The
parents offer no care to the young.
STATUS IN WILD:
Stable, but in some areas they are
threatened due to habitat destruction
and human encroachment. In Canada, they
are considered vulnerable.