Iowa State Reptile
Painted Turtle (common name)
Chrysemys picta (scientific name)
Painted turtles are semi-aquatic and among the most common turtles in North America. Their range extends from southern Canada to northern Mexico. The turtle’s common name refers to bright red, yellow, and orange markings on the animal’s body and shell. The pattern of the colors is often irregular, making it look as if the animal were painted. The painted turtle is the official state reptile of Michigan and Illinois, and the western painted turtle is the official state reptile of Colorado.
The western painted turtle is easily recognizable by the bright colors on the underside of its shell. These markings are red, orange, and yellow with a dark blot-like pattern in the middle. The turtle’s upper shell is dark, with staggered plates and a net pattern overall. The edge of the turtle’s upper shell also has a red and yellow pattern. The painted turtle has very dark skin on its head, legs, and tail, which varies from black to deep, muted green, but which also has red and yellow markings. The tail is short and pointed, but a mature male’s tail is normally longer and wider at the base than a female’s. Males also have longer front claws and are smaller than females.
Up to 30 years
Soft-bottomed ponds and marshes or other very slow-moving bodies of water. Painted turtles choose homes with plenty of plant matter and good basking sites.
Range: Southwestern Ontario south to southern Missouri and westward to the Pacific Northwest.
Conservation Status: Least Concern (LC)
Painted turtles normally mate in spring shortly after they’re finished hibernating, though fall mating occasionally occurs. Males start to breed when they are three to five years old, and females at four to five years of age. Females nest on land and prefer warm, sunny places with soft soil, but choose sites that are reasonably close to the water. Females dig their nests using their back feet and lay up to 15 whitish, soft-shelled eggs, which they cover with sand or earth and then abandon. Most build one or two nests per season, but up to five are possible.
The eggs hatch 72 to 80 days later. Young turtles dig themselves out of their nests and are able to fend for themselves right away. Sex is determined by incubation temperature. Warmer temperatures produce females and cooler temperatures males. Because nest temperature varies a lot in nature, most nests are mixed.
Turtles are active in warm weather, spending most of their day in water. Sometimes they prefer to lie in the sun on logs or rocks, in the water, or on shore. They do this because they need the sun’s warmth to keep their body temperature high to function. (Like most reptiles, turtles are ectotherms, or "cold-blooded" animals.) They can’t walk or run quickly, but will dive underwater whenever they feel threatened.
As autumn approaches and the weather cools, Painted turtles bury themselves in mud at the bottom of their stream or pond. For hibernation, turtles dig as deep as 3 feet (90 cm) in water that’s often shallower than 6 feet (1.8 m).
A variety of aquatic animals, plants, and algae including insects, tadpoles, small fish, small crustaceans, worms, and duckweed.
Breeding interval: Annual
Hatching period: July–September
Average nest size: 8 eggs
Size at birth: 0.75 in (19 mm) long
Click to enlarge an image
Raw Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press