The Painted turtle





The turtle, he is an elusive creature. Hidden well in the water. He is also hidden well in his shell. The shell alone provokes our childlike curiosity to see what’s inside, to explore. The more we learn about them the more questions we have. How do they live, how do the reproduce, how do they as cold blooded reptiles survive the winter, and many other mysteries. Science has begun to solve some of these problems, but new problems appear every day. Turtles are very interesting animals. One of the most fascinating species of turtles is the Painted turtle.
The Painted turtle is a reptile that lives mainly in north America. It can also be found in Nova Scotia. The species is divided into four subspecies each with their own distinct location. Chyrsemys picta picta (Eastern Painted turtle) located mostly between the Atlantic ocean and the Appalachian mountains. Chyrsemys picta marginata (Midland Painted turtles) located mostly in the great lakes, Ohio valley and all the way down to northern Alabama. Chyrsemys picta dorsalis (Southern Painted turtles) who live dependent on the Mississippi from southern Illinois to the gulf of Mexico. The last subspecies is Chyrsemys picta belli, the Western Painted turtle. These are the painted turtles that live here in Nebraska. They have the largest range of any of the painted turtle species, spanning from the Mississippi all the way to Washington and British Colombia (Dawson, 1998). Painted turtles can generally be distinguished from other turtles by several identifying characteristics. They have a smooth flattened carapace (top shell) that can be brown, olive or black. The carapace can have light yellow or orange lines. The Painted turtles plastron (lower shell) can be creme, yellow or tan. They resemble red eared sliders because they have lines on their head and neck. A Painted turtle however has yellow streaks on the face and red on the neck while a slider has red on the face. Also, females of the species tend to be generally larger than the males (Janzen, 1994). This is a common characteristic among reptiles.
The diet of all painted turtles varies according to their place in their life cycle. They are carnivores, omnivores and even herbivores during different stages of their lives. A hatchling is almost exclusively a carnivore, with insect larvae and beetles for an average meal. As they mature they begin to dine on plants, while still retaining the carnivorous appetite of their youth. Finally in the latter stages of their lives they give up meat almost entirely and feed primarily on duckweed, algae and lily pads (Dawson, 1998). The animals spend much of the day basking in the sun. They share basking sights. It is not uncommon to see thirty of them on the same log. They prefer to live in soft bottom muddy lakes, swamps, slow moving streams and rivers (Dawson, 1998).
Turtles in general have fairly long life cycles. Captive Painted turtles have been known to live well over twenty years. In the wild life expectancy is closer to eight to ten years. For females it takes four to eight years to mature. Males mature much faster reaching reproductive size within two to five years. The age is less important than the size of the actual turtles. When a turtle reaches a certain size it becomes able to reproduce. The time between the expected death and maturation of the females there are only one or two years of reproduction. Courting takes place in April and May, in colder regions the time can be delayed almost all of the way to early autumn. The male swims backward in front of the female while vibrating his claws on her cheeks. Once the sperm has been transmitted to the female she has the ability to postpone fertilization of the eggs, if needs be, for months, even years. This type of adaptation allows the mother to choose when it is safe to lay her eggs (Dawson, 1998). This is a very important item in a creature who’s body temperature is directly controlled by its environment. The eggs are laid in July or August, it takes them about ten to eleven weeks to hatch. Eggs are soft and leathery and are generally about 1.25 inches long. An average clutch of