Native turtles of Florida are some of the rarest species of reptiles in the world. They are also endangered. What makes them so special?
Florida has over 100 native turtle species. The state is home to the largest population of these animals in North America.
Unfortunately, they are threatened by habitat destruction, invasive species, climate change, and human development.
Types Of Turtles
Turtles are reptiles that lay eggs. There are two main types of turtles: sea turtles and land turtles.
Sea turtles have been around for about 200 million years. They can grow up to 6 feet long.
Their shells protect their soft underbelly from predators. These shells are made out of calcium carbonate, which is a mineral.
Sea turtles come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are flat, like the leatherback turtle.
Others have pointed noses, like the loggerhead. Leatherbacks have a very large head compared to its body size.
Loggerheads have small heads but big bodies.
There are three major groups of sea turtles: green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. Green sea turtles are the smallest group and tend to live near coral reefs and warm waters.
They have a light brown or grayish-brown colored skin, and most will have dark stripes along their back and tail, along with a white belly.
Hawksbill sea turtles live in shallow coastal waters and have a darker coloration as well a black stripe down their back and a white belly.
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles live in deep ocean water and tend to have a reddish-brown coloration. They have red spots on their backs and tails.
All sea turtles have flippers instead of hands and feet. Flippers allow them to move quickly through the water.
Each sea turtle also has a unique pattern on its shell.
This pattern tells scientists what kind of sea turtle it is. Scientists use this information to learn more about how turtles adapt to their environment.
Land turtles, on the other hand, have shorter legs than sea turtles.
They usually have a round shell with a hole at the top. They have a hard carapace (a bony outer covering) and plastron (the inside part).
The most common type of land turtle is the box turtle. It’s one of the few species that live on land all year round. Box turtles eat insects, worms, snails, slugs, and plants.
The next most common type of land turtle is the snapping turtle.
Snapping turtles eat fish, frogs, crayfish, snakes, and even birds, and have sharp teeth that help them catch prey. As the name suggests, they also have a strong jaw that helps them snap their jaws shut.
The last type of land turtle is called an indigo snake. Indigos are nonvenomous snakes. They eat lizards, frogs, and mice.
There are several other types of land turtles as well. Alligator snapping turtles, tortoises, terrapins, and wood turtles are just a few examples.
Freshwater Vs Saltwater Turtles
Florida has over 100 species of turtles. Most of these species live in freshwater habitats. However, there are some species that live in both fresh and saltwater.
Most of the freshwater turtles in Florida live in rivers and lakes.
Some freshwater turtles have a hard time getting food because of pollution. The chemicals in the polluted water make it difficult for the turtles to find food.
In addition, the chemicals may kill off the vegetation needed by the turtles to feed.
Freshwater turtles can get sick from eating dead animals. Dead animals often contain parasites that can harm the turtles.
Freshwater turtles can also get sick if they’re not exposed to sunlight.
Without exposure to sunlight, the turtles cannot produce vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate calcium levels in the body. If the calcium level becomes too high, the bones become weak.
Saltwater turtles live in oceans, estuaries, and mangrove swamps. Saltwater turtles need to stay close to the shoreline so they don’t drown when they go into the water.
Saltwater turtles are important to people who work along the coast. Many people collect shells and sell them to museums or collectors. Shell collecting is illegal in many places.
In addition, saltwater turtles provide food for people who like seafood. Some people raise turtles as pets.
These turtles are fed a diet of shrimp, crabs, clams, and vegetables.
Many people think that turtles lay eggs every day. But true turtles only lay eggs once a month. During the rest of the months, the female turtle stores her eggs in a special place until she’s ready to hatch them.
Florida Native Species Of Turtle
There are a number of species of turtle that are native to Florida, and we will explore the appearance, diets, habitats and nature of these turtles below.
Alabama Map Turtle Graptemys Pulchra
The Alabama map turtle is an endangered species found in the state of Alabama.
It was listed on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in December 1978. The ESA protects this turtle from being hunted by humans. There are fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild.
Colors usually vary from a dark brown or green shade, right up to a rich black. Alabama Map Turtles are found throughout North America.
The upper shell usually bears a pattern that resembles a map – hence the name – and will also have a pronounced line formed of knobby keels.
As Alabama Map Turtles get older, their patterns become less distinct, and the knobs start to disappear.
The lower part of a map turtle’s shell is usually a shade of yellow. Their skin may show a pattern made up of lines that tend to be yellow in color.
This type of turtle lives in rivers and streams. Its habitat includes areas with slow-flowing water. This area has lots of plants growing near the river. The river also has lots of rocks and logs.
In some parts of the country, these turtles live in ponds. They can be found in small lakes and swamps.
This turtle eats aquatic insects such as crayfish and mayflies. It also eats fish and other animals that fall into its territory.
Map turtles have a lifespan of about 20 years. After they reach sexual maturity, females lay their eggs in nests made out of sticks or leaves. Each nest holds up to 500 eggs.
When the eggs hatch, the babies crawl down the stick and leave it behind.
Map turtles face many threats. These include pollution, development, and hunting. People often kill them for food. Some people use chemicals to control weeds around waterways.
This makes the turtles’ habitats less suitable. Also, there are more people living in the United States today than ever before. More people means more pollution. Pollution affects the health of the turtles.
Alligator Snapping Turtle Macroclemys Temminckii
The alligator snapping turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world. It grows up to 26 inches long and is native to the southeastern US.
The alligator snapping turtles range in color from light gray to olive green to brownish orange. Their shells are covered with large bumps called tubercles.
Alligator snappers have a broad head with a flat top, and possess two rows of teeth along the jawline, while mouths are wide, with strong hinges.
The front row of teeth is longer than the back row, and the eyes are located at the end of the snapper’s head. The snapper’s legs are short and stout, and the tail is long and tapering.
The snapper’s underside is white, except for a thin stripe running across the center of the belly.
Snappers prefer shallow waters, but they are not limited to any particular depth. They like clear water and will move away if it becomes murky. They can survive in both fresh and saltwater.
Snappers eat invertebrates such as worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and insect larvae. They also eat small fish.
Snappers mate during springtime. Females lay eggs in sandy areas. Eggs are laid in clusters of 50-200 per clutch. Clutches contain between 200 and 1,000 eggs. Hatchlings measure approximately 3 inches long.
Alligators snap at turtles when they feel threatened. Humans also pose a threat to this species, as in some areas, the turtles are hunted for food, and occasionally killed accidentally.
Habitat destruction is another problem. Many wetlands have been destroyed by humans.
Barbour’s Map Turtle Graptemys Barbouri
Barbour’s map turtle is native to the eastern half of North America, and particularly Florida. The species can be found throughout the northern part of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
These turtles grow up to 3-5 inches long for males, and around 8-10 inches long for females. They have an elongated body shape, with a small head.
Barbour’s map turtles have a dark brown shell that has three distinct bands. There is a black line on each side of the shell. The inside of the shell is yellow.
Barbour’s map turtles live in wooded swamps, marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. They can tolerate a wide variety of habitats, including those that are polluted.
Barbour’s map turtles eat insects, earthworms, slugs, snails, frogs, crayfish, and small fish.
Barbour’s map turtles hibernate through winter. During hibernation, they go into a state of suspended animation. They do not breathe, nor do they eat or drink.
Instead, they rely on stored fat reserves. They may stay in this state for several months. When spring comes, they wake up and begin their active life cycle again.
Barbour’s map turtles breed during late summer and early fall. Male turtles build nests near streams.
Nests consist of a depression filled with leaves, twigs, grasses, and other debris.
Female turtles deposit about 100 eggs in the nest. Each egg measures 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in diameter. After hatching, hatchlings emerge from the nest and crawl out onto land.
Threats And Predators
Human activity poses a major threat to these turtles.
People often disturb nesting females, which leads to fewer babies being born. Some people hunt them for food, while others kill them accidentally during this process.
Destruction of habitat is another major problem for Barbour map turtles, and they are increasingly running out of safe homes to live in.
The main predators of Barbour’s map turtles include raccoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, owls, hawks, snakes, and weasels.
Carolina Diamondback Terrapin Malaclemys Terrapin Centrata
The Carolina Diamondback Terrapin lives primarily in the coastal plain regions of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
It was once common along the Atlantic Coast, but it has become rare due to human activities such as development, pollution, and overharvesting.
This turtle grows up to 4-6 inches long for males, and around 5-8 inches in length for females.
Its shell is a light tan color, with a diamond-shaped pattern. The underside of its shell is light, ranging from a bright white to a gray, and the skin may also bear darker spots.
These turtles prefer sandy areas close to water. They live in freshwater wetlands, saltwater estuaries and marshes, and brackish waters.
These turtles are carnivores, and so feed mainly on crabs, shrimp, clams, and worms.
Diamondback terrapins hibernate in underground burrows. In order to survive the cold temperatures, they must remain completely immobile. They will only move if there is danger nearby.
Diamondback terrapins mate between April and August. Females lay around 120 eggs at a time. Eggs take about 80 and 90 days to incubate. Hatchlings emerge from the nest after 4 weeks.
Threats And Predators
Development and pollution pose serious threats to these turtles. Habitat destruction is another concern.
Coyotes, raccoons, skunks, snakes, owls, hawks, and weasels prey on these turtles, forming their main predators.
Common Musk Turtle Sternotherus Odoratus
Another Florida native is the Common Musk Turtle, which is found throughout much of the state.
This species prefers warm, shallow bodies of fresh or saltwater. It feeds mostly on crustaceans, mollusks, and worms.
Common Musk Turtles tend to have a very plain appearance, and most will be decorated with very consistent colors.
The color of the skin is usually either black or dark brown and tends to be very similar to the color of the shell.
The shells of Common Musk turtles will usually have a very distinctive feature; there is a ridge that traverses the entire length of the shell, and can help to identify this type.
These turtles will also bear lighter colored stripes on their head and can live for between 30 and 50 years.
Musk turtles can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, and bays. They prefer it if their habitat has a soft base to it, and so typically favor sandy or muddy areas of slow-moving water.
Musk turtles are omnivores and tend to enjoy small fish, crayfish, snails, insects, and other invertebrates. They also enjoy various fruits and vegetables as part of their diet.
Musk turtles do not hibernate. Breeding takes place from March through October.
During this season, males call for mates using a high-pitched whistle.
When a male finds a female, he will attempt to mount her by pushing his head into hers.
If she accepts him, mating occurs. Females lay approximately 100 eggs per clutch. Each egg hatches after 1 week.
Threats And Predators
Human disturbance is a major threat to musk turtles. Developmental pressures and pollution pose additional concerns. Osprey, otter, alligator, catfish, and eagle prey on musk turtles.
Common Snapping Turtle Chelydra Serpentina Serpentina
The common snapping turtle is often a popular pet, and also plays a part as a Florida native.
These reptiles are omnivores that feed on both plants and animals. They prefer moist environments near streams and ponds.
Snapping turtles grow up to between 12 and 15 inches, with some reaching lengths of around 19 inches.
Their shells vary in size and shape, depending on the individual. Most specimens are black or brown in color, with very long necks, tails, and legs.
The underbelly of their shells ranges from a pale yellow to a greenish-gray. They can live for between 30 and 50 years on average.
Snapping turtles are omnivorous, favoring meat and plants equally.
They prefer freshwater habitats such as ponds, swamps, and creeks, and will feed primarily on aquatic vegetation, insects, and small vertebrate animals.
Hibernation & Reproduction
Snapping turtles spend most of their lives dormant. However, during the winter months, they enter a period of torpor, where their metabolism slows down considerably.
This allows them to conserve energy and avoid overheating.
In the spring, when temperatures begin to rise, the turtles awaken and start feeding again.
They may also go into estrus (a breeding phase) if they encounter a suitable partner. Females lay between 10 and 40 eggs each year. The average clutch contains 25 to 35 eggs.
Threats & Predators
Snapping turtles are susceptible to human disturbances.
In addition, development pressure and habitat loss cause problems. Fish, alligators, otters, snakes, birds, cats, dogs, and coyotes prey on snapping turtles.
Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene Carolina Carolina
Another turtle that is native to the Florida swamps is the Eastern Box Turtle.
These reptiles are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plant and animal matter. They are herbivorous and feed mainly on roots, tubers, fruits, and leaves.
Box turtles grow up to between 5 and 7 inches and weigh about 2 pounds.
They can be identified by distinctive, dome-shaped shells, and these tend to be black or brown.
Shells and skin are typically patterned, and will usually be orange, red, or yellow in color. Lifespan can reach from 50 right up to 100 years.
Habitats & Diet
Box turtles live on land, rather than water, and this makes them unique amongst turtles in Florida, as well as the wider area.
They favor homes in wetlands and woodlands throughout the eastern United States and, though they are land dwellers, they do prefer areas with abundant water sources, including rivers, lakes, and marshes.
During the winter months, box turtles become inactive and seek shelter in burrows or under logs. They use these shelters to protect themselves against predators and extreme weather conditions.
When it’s time for hibernation, their body temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
During the summer months, females produce clutches of approximately 20 eggs. After hatching, the young turtles remain in the nest until they reach sexual maturity at around three years old.
Threats & Predators
The main threat to box turtles is predation by humans. People can disturb nesting boxes and destroy nests. Also, invasive species like rats and mice compete with box turtles for food.
Eastern Chicken Turtle Deirochelys Reticularia Reticularia
Despite the curious name, the Eastern Chicken Turtle is definitely more turtle than poultry!
These curious creatures are found only in North America and inhabit coastal waters from New Jersey to Texas.
They are carnivores and feed mostly on fish, crustaceans, mollusks, worms, and other invertebrates.
Chicken turtles grow up to between 5 and 10 inches long and weigh less than 1 pound. They have an elongated, cylindrical shape and a flat, broad head.
Their skin is smooth and grayish-brown in color, with yellow stripes, and the shell tends to be a dark brown or a black color.
Shells will usually also come with a yellow, subtle pattern, and shells have been likened to an egg in appearance. The Eastern chicken turtle may live from 15 to 30 years.
These turtles live along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Texas.
They prefer sandy beaches and saltwater flats, but can also be found in cypress, marshes, ponds, and canals, as well as sandhills and locations that have sluggish or still water.
These turtles are primarily carnivorous; however, they will occasionally take small amounts of algae and plants, and enjoy a varied diet.
In the fall, female chicken turtles dig shallow holes where they lay their eggs.
They cover them with sand and then return to the ocean to hunt. Once the eggs hatch, the mother returns to deposit her babies on the beach. The chicks stay there until they develop into juvenile turtles.
Threats & Predators
Predators include raccoons, foxes, gulls, eagles, and crabs. Humans also pose a threat because they may accidentally step on the turtles as they walk along the shoreline.
The distinctive “chicken turtle” name also comes from an unfortunate source; the turtle was once a popular delicacy across the United States, with many consumers comparing the taste to that of chicken.
Eastern Mud Turtle Kinosternon Subrubrum Subrubrum
The Eastern Mud Turtle lives in freshwater habitats such as ponds, streams, and swamps.
It grows up to 5 to 7 inches long and weighs between 15 and 25 pounds. Its body is covered with overlapping plates and its tail has two rows of spines.
Eastern Mud turtles have a flattened shell shaped like a boat hull and may appear quite plain in appearance.
Their shells usually range from a yellow to a brown or black in color, and the upper section will be fairly plain, while a little darker than the lower sections of the shell.
They have large heads with colored yellow or white stripes and short necks. Life spans can range from 50 to 70 years old.
Mud turtles live in freshwater environments near the coasts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina. As the name suggests, they enjoy habitats with soft, muddy bottoms such as rivers, lakes, marshes, and swamps.
Mud turtles eat aquatic insects and snails as well as fruits and vegetables.
Mud turtles mate during spring and early summer. Females lay about 100 eggs each year. When the eggs hatch, the mothers leave them alone until the juveniles become sexually mature.
Threats & Predators
Mud turtles are preyed upon by alligators, otters, snakes, birds, and mammals. In addition, they are sometimes caught in fishing nets.
Eastern River Cooter Pseudemys Concinna Concinna
Another Florida native, the Eastern River Cooter is one of the smallest species of turtle. They typically measure between 8 inches and 12 inches in length, with some reaching up to 15 inches in length.
River cooters have a broad carapace (shell) that can be either olive, brown, or close to black in color, and which usually comes with a number of concentric markings or yellow rings on the top, while the lower shell is often a pale, plain shade of yellow.
Their tails are short and rounded, and the skin ranges from shades of olive to a deeper olive-brown, and may also have a series of yellow lines. They can live for between 20 and 40 years.
River cooters live in rivers, lakes, and marshes throughout eastern North America.
River cooters eat aquatic vegetation and insects. They may also enjoy snails on occasion.
Female river cooters lay clutches of 10 to 20 eggs per season. After hatching, the young remain in the nest for several weeks before leaving it to seek food.
Threats & Predators
River cooters are preyed upon by fish, frogs, and other reptiles. People often catch them when they are swimming in open waters, and they can become injured when entangled with humans and swimmers.
Escambia Map Turtle Graptemys Ernsti
Escambia map turtles are found in coastal areas along the Gulf Coast of Florida.
They grow to lengths of 3 to 10 inches and weigh around 4 to 7 pounds. They have a very distinctive pattern of spots on their backs and sides.
Escambia Map Turtles boast a shell with a prominent black vertebral ridge.
The skin of these turtles is typically black in color and may have lines that are white or white-yellow in color, with large white spots around the eyes.
Lifespan tends to be around 30 to 50 years, and males can grow from 3 to 5 inches, with females reaching between 8 and 10 inches.
Habitat & Diet
Map turtles prefer freshwater habitats that contain mud and sand, and that tend to be slow-moving, or totally stagnant.
They feed mainly on small crustaceans, mollusks, worms, insect larvae, and plant material.
Reproduction & Lifespan
Map turtles reproduce every 2 to 3 years. Males reach sexual maturity at 5 to 7 months old, while females do not reach reproductive age until they are 11 to 13 months old.
Threats & Predators
Map turtles are preyed upon primarily by raccoons, opossums, heron, gulls, and other birds. However, they are also captured in traps set for the purpose of catching juvenile alligator lizards.
Florida Box Turtle Terrapene Carolina Bauri
Box turtles are found in southern coastal regions of the southeastern U.S., including Florida. They grow up to 7 inches in length and weigh between 4 and 8 pounds.
Box turtles have blunt heads and narrow, cylindrical shells.
Their bodies are covered with overlapping scales, and their shells are dome-like in appearance – this is usually black, or a dark brown color.
In most cases, the upper section of the shell will feature a pattern of yellow or orange lines, while the lower section of each shell will be yellow or orange in color.
Skin is typically black or brown, and may also bear yellow or orange spots. Most Florida box turtles reach between 5 and 7 inches and can live for between 50 and 100 years.
Box turtles are unusual in that they tend to live on land, rather than water, and will usually choose to live in moist areas of forests, grasslands, and marshlands.
Box turtles are omnivorous, enjoying plants and meat equally. They will typically feed on earthworms, slugs, snails, insects, spiders, and amphibians.
Box turtles are oviparous; females lay their eggs in nests that contain an average of 30 eggs. The female deposits her eggs in a shallow depression that she digs out of the ground. She then covers the eggs with soil.
Box turtles are preyed upon mainly by raccoons, foxes, skunks, snakes, and birds. They may also be killed by vehicles while crossing roads, and are considered to be very vulnerable.
Florida Chicken Turtle Deirochelys Reticularia Chrysea
Another turtle with an unusual moniker, the Florida Chicken turtle is named after its resemblance to a chicken, and they can grow to lengths of 5 to 10 inches.
The Florida Chicken turtle has a long neck and tail. Its body is oval-shaped, and its shell is smooth and shiny – in many cases, the shell is likened to an egg with regard to appearance and shape.
Shells tend to be black or dark brown in color, and will usually have a subtle yellow pattern, and a yellow lower section.
The skin of a Florida chicken turtle is usually dark in color and may have subtle yellow stripes across the surface.
These turtles may live from 15 to 30 years, and both males and females can reach between 5 and 10 inches.
This turtle lives along the coast of the southeastern U. S., including Florida.
Chicken turtles eat crabs, clams, crayfish, fish, invertebrates, and worms.
Reproduction And Life Cycle
Chickens hatch in the summer months. Females lay clutches of 20 to 40 eggs per clutch.
The female deposits her egg in a nest that contains an average of 15 eggs. The female covers the eggs with sand.
These turtles are preyed upon by raccoons, otters, eagles, hawks, gulls, and other animals.
Florida Cooter Pseudemys Floridana
The Florida Cooter is one of several species of freshwater turtles native to North America. It can reach sizes of 8 to 15 inches in length and weights of 1 to 3 pounds.
The Florida Coot’s carapace is dark green to black, and it has a yellow or orange stripe running down each side.
They are also identified by their distinctive flat shape and may bear a few other markings to help distinguish them from other types of turtles.
Lifespan tends to be between 20 and 40 years, and many creatures will reach lengths of between 8 and 12 inches, with a few females reported reaching around 15 inches in length.
Habitat And Diet
Coots live in rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, marshes, and slow streams, and typically favor water streams over other options. They eat aquatic plants, algae, insects, and small fish.
Coots lay their eggs in springtime. Each clutch usually consists of 6 to 13 eggs. The female lays them in a nest that she excavates from the bottom of the stream or pond. She covers the eggs with mud.
Threats And Conservation Status
Coots are preyed upon by muskrats, raccoons, otters, alligators, and other predators. They are sometimes trapped for food.
Florida East Coast Terrapin Malaclemys Terrapin Tequesta
Also found native to Florida is the Florida East Coast terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin). This turtle reaches up to 6 inches in length in some cases, and females tend to be larger than males.
Terrapins’ shells are round and flat, dark brown or black in color, with distinctive, medium grooves across the surface.
When they hatch, Florida East Coast Terrapins may have a small to medium knob on the shell, but this will flatten as they grow.
Lower sides of shells will usually be brown or black, while skin is typically white. Small black spots may be present around the head, and they have a distinctive white band around their tails.
Florida East Coast terrapins may live for between 25 and 35 years in total. Males tend to reach between 4 and 6 inches in length, while females can reach lengths of between 5 and 8 inches.
Terrapins live in brackish water. They prefer quiet waters where there are no fast currents and may favor coastal salt marshes.
Terrapins are primarily carnivores and feed on snails, slugs, tadpoles, insects, crustaceans, and plant matter.
Female terrapins lay clutches of 8 to 12 eggs. The female digs a nesting site near shoreline vegetation. She then constructs a shallow depression lined with leaves and sticks.
She lines the depression with dried grass and leaves.
She covers the nest with more leaves and sticks. She returns every day to check on the nest. If the nest is disturbed, she may return later to cover the disturbance.
Terrapins are preyed upon by foxes, raccoons, snakes, birds, and other animals. They are also caught by humans who use them for food.
Florida Mud Turtle Kinosternon Subrubrum Steindachneri
Another type of turtle is the Florida mud turtle, and these turtles are native to Florida. They grow to be about 2 feet long and weigh between 5 and 7 pounds.
Mud turtles have a shell that is brownish-gray with darker stripes. They have a large head, short legs, and webbed feet.
Mud turtles live in wetlands and marshy areas along the coast. They like to burrow into soft soil.
Mud turtles feed mainly on worms, mollusks, insect larvae, and other invertebrates.
Mud turtles lay their eggs in nests dug under logs or stumps. Females construct the nests over a period of months. When ready to lay, the female digs a hole in the ground and deposits her eggs.
She covers the nest again with earth. After hatching, the young turtles crawl out of the nest.
Mud turtles are preyed upon by raccoons, opossums, skunks, and other mammals. They are also captured by fishermen who use them for bait.
The Florida mud turtle has been listed as an endangered species since 1979. It was once common throughout most of its range, but it has declined due to habitat loss and hunting.
Florida Redbelly Turtle Pseudemys Nelsoni
Florida Redbelly Turtles are native to Florida. These turtles can reach lengths of 6 to 9 inches and weights of 3 to 10 pounds.
Redbelly turtles have a dark red belly and a yellowish-orange face.
They have a broad head, small eyes, and a flattened tail. Shells tend to be dome-like in shape, and this will usually be black or dark brown, with skin in a similar shade.
A few lighter colored spots may be present on the upper portion of the shell, while the lower area may have orange or red tones. The skin may have yellow stripes.
On average, Redbelly turtles can reach between 8 and 14 inches, and live for between 40 and 60 years in total.
Redbelly turtles live in freshwater habitats such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and swamps. They favor slow bodies of water or even water that is totally still.
Redbelly turtles are predominantly herbivores, and will usually eat aquatic plants, fish, amphibians, crayfish, and insects.
Female red belly turtles lay clutches of 6 to 20 eggs.
The female digs a nesting area near shoreline vegetation. Her nest is constructed from dry leaves and twigs.
She lines the nest with more leaves. She returns every day until the eggs hatch, which can take around 80 days.
Redbelly turtle populations have declined because they are hunted for meat by humans, and have fallen victim to larger predators. Despite this, numbers do remain fairly high.
The Florida redbelly turtle is not considered to be endangered or under significant threat
Florida Softshell Apalone Ferox
As the name suggests, another species that is native to Florida is the Florida softshell.
Softshells have a hard outer shell made of bony plates.
Their shells are light gray with black markings, and they may appear quite plain, with a few small lumps and bumps in the upper portion.
Colors tend to range from a lighter, olive-gray shade to a darker, more vibrant brown color.
They have a flat body with a rounded snout, and this tends to be gray or olive on the top with a cream or light gray belly. Their tails are shorter than their bodies.
They tend to live for between 20 and 30 years and can reach between 10 and 12 inches in length.
Habitat & Range
Softshells live in freshwater. They prefer slow-moving water and are also commonly found in lakes and similar bodies of water.
Softshells are carnivorous, and tend to eat zooplankton, crustaceans, and plant matter.
Female softshells lay clutches of 8 to 12 eggs. They build nests in shallow water close to shorelines.
Like many other types of turtle, softshells are threatened by pollution, pesticides, and predators.
The Florida softshell turtle is not considered to be particularly vulnerable and does not feature on any endangered lists at the present time.
Florida Snapping Turtle Chelydra Serpentina Osceola
The Florida snapping turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in North America.
Snapping turtles grow to be between 12 and 15 inches long and are usually black or brown in color.
They have a large head with a triangular shape and a sharp, distinctive beak, as well as very long arms, legs, and necks.
They can reach lengths of up to 19 inches in some cases, though most are a little smaller, and can live for between 30 and 50 years.
Snapping turtles live in freshwater habitats like lakes, rivers, and streams. They do prefer it if the bottom of their home is soft and covered with mud or sand.
Snapping turtles are omnivorous and will enjoy feeding on fish, frogs, invertebrates, and worms, as well as a number of types of plants, vegetables, and fruits.
Snapping turtles lay clutches of 30 to 60 eggs. Females construct nests under overhanging rocks or logs.
Snapping turtles are threatened by habitat destruction, pollution, and predation.
The Florida snapping turtle is not considered to be seriously endangered and seems to be thriving in the wild.
Gopher Tortoise Gopherus Polyphemus
The Gopher tortoise is an arboreal reptile that lives throughout much of North America.
Gopher tortoises can reach lengths of up to 15 inches.
They have a thick, armored shell, and tend to be fairly plain in their appearance, with a brown or darker gray shade on the upper shell, and a yellow and black lower section.
Skin tends to emulate the shell and is usually a brownish or dark gray in color. Most will reach lengths of between 10 and 15 inches and can live for between 40 and 60 years.
They spend most of their time living in burrows dug into the ground, which they use both for shelter during the day, and for sleeping at night.
These can be long, complex structures, and tend to have multiple entrances.
Gopher tortoises feed primarily on roots, tubers, bulbs, and seeds. They will also take insects, fruit, and small animals such as lizards and birds.
Gopher tortoise females produce clutches of 2 to 20 eggs. They dig nesting chambers underground, where they lay their eggs.
The female then covers them with soil, leaving just enough room for her hatchlings to emerge. She does this about once every year and may lay more than one clutch.
Gopher tortoise populations are declining due to human development, especially in urban areas. Habitat loss has been identified as the primary cause of this decline.
In addition, gopher tortoises are hunted for food, and often killed when they become entangled in power lines.
The gopher tortoise is listed as being of least concern by the IUCN Red List.
Gulf Coast Box Turtle Terrapene Carolina Major
The Gulf Coast box turtle is a medium-sized turtle that grows to around 7 inches in length. It is native to the southeastern United States.
Box turtles typically have shells that are olive green or dark brown in color, with a light yellow stripe running down and across the middle of their back.
The lower section of the shell will usually be darker and may have patterns or be plain, and their shells are rounded and dome-like.
These turtles also have a large head, with a flat snout, and large eyes, with black or darker brown skin.
The skin may also be covered in yellow, red, or orange spots, and they can reach between 5 and 7 inches in length. Lifespans are generally between 50 and 100 years.
Habitats And Diet
Box turtles prefer to live on land, but near water, and will frequent beaches, marshes, ponds, and other bodies of freshwater. They eat aquatic plants, algae, mollusks, crustaceans, insect larvae, and amphibians.
Reproduction And Lifespan
Female box turtles lay 1 to 5 eggs per season. Hatchlings emerge from the nest after 4 months. They grow quickly, reaching sexual maturity within 3 years. They can live for over 30 years.
Threats And Conservation Status
There are many threats facing the box turtle. One of these is habitat destruction, which occurs mostly through coastal development. Another threat is predation, including humans who hunt them for food.
Gulf Coast Smooth Softshell Apalone Mutica Calvata
The softshell turtle is a small freshwater turtle found in rivers and streams throughout much of the eastern half of North America.
This species is similar in appearance to the common snapping turtle, but it lacks the hard bony plates covering its neck and tail.
Smooth softshells are relatively small compared to most turtles, growing to only 6 inches long.
Their shells are thin and flexible, and their colors range from olive to darker brown shades. Shells also tend to be a little flatter and rounder than other types of turtles.
They have a broad, flattened head, and the upper section of the shell often has dark patterns, which are darker in females than in males. Smooth softshells can reach 6 to 13 inches and can live for between 40 and 60 years in total.
Smooth softshell turtles are found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. They are not very mobile, preferring to stay close to shore, and prefer habitats with soft, muddy floors.
They are omnivores and feed mainly on fish, insects, and plant matter.
Reproduction And Lifespan
Females lay up to 10 eggs per year, and hatchlings emerge after about 2 months. Growth rates are slow, taking approximately 3 years before the animals reach sexual maturity.
Threats And Conservation Status
Smooth softshells are not endangered and mainly continue to thrive in the wild.
Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Apalone Spinifera Aspera
The spiny softshell is a small freshwater turtle native to the southeastern United States. It is one of two subspecies of softshells (the other being the smooth softshell) that occur in this region.
Spiny softshells are smaller than smooth softshells, measuring around 6 inches in length on average, though males can range from 5 to 10 inches in length, and females can be considerably larger, at between 9 and 20 inches in length.
They have a narrow, pointed head, and the top part of their shells is more angular than those of smooth softshells, with bumps from the front down to the center.
Overall, the Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell appears rather flat, with grayish olive skins and shells.
They may also have some black markings along the edge.
The underside of their shells is usually lighter colored than the rest of their body. Spiny softshells can grow to 12 inches in total and can live for between 40 and 60 years.
Behavior And Habitat
Spiny softshells spend most of their time near water, either in or just above it. They eat aquatic invertebrates such as crayfish, snails, and insect larvae. They nest in shallow areas, laying up to 20 eggs each year.
Female spiny softshells begin mating when they reach 4 to 5 years old and can mate multiple times during their lifetime.
Females lay up to 10 clutches of eggs per year, and hatching begins within 3 weeks of egg-laying. Hatchlings measure around 1 inch in total and weigh less than an ounce.
There are no known threats to spiny softshell populations, although there have been reports of them becoming trapped in traps set.
Loggerhead Musk Turtle Sternotherus Minor Minor
The Loggerhead musk turtle is a medium-sized turtle that lives primarily on North America’s Atlantic coast. This species is one of three members of the genus Sternotherus and is the smallest of these.
Loggerhead musks have a shell that is slightly longer than their bodies and has a distinctive pattern of dark brown spots on their back. As these turtles grow older, they tend to become much less obvious and visible.
Their tails are long, and they have a triangular shape, and shells are typically lighter brown on the top, with small streaks of black and a yellow or light brown shade for the undershell.
Skin is black and may have light brown lines across the surface, and these creatures are super small, rarely exceeding3 to 4 inches for both males and females.
They can live for between 20 and 40 years.
Behavior And Habits
These turtles prefer saltwater environments and will move into freshwater if necessary. They are active throughout the day and feed mainly on crabs, shrimp, worms, mollusks, clams, and fish.
They also eat sea grasses and algae. When threatened, they retreat undercover, often submerging themselves in mud.
Loggerhead musk turtles reproduce every 2 to 3 years and typically produce 4 to 8 clutches of eggs each season. Each clutch contains about 25 to 30 eggs, which hatch after about 90 days.
Hatchlings measure around 2 inches in total length and weigh less than half an ounce.
Mangrove Diamondback Terrapin Malaclemys Terrapin Rhizophorarum
The Mangrove diamondback terrapin is a large freshwater turtle that inhabits mangroves and swamps in parts of the southern United States.
It is one of two species in the genus Malaclemys, and is the only member of this group found in the Americas.
This species’ shell is very broad and tends to be dark brown on the upper section, with a series of light lines crisscrossing the surface. The lower sections of the shell tend to be light brown or yellow and may have dark spots.
Dark spots also cover the skin, which tends to be dark gray in color, and these turtles can reach sizes of between 4 and 6 inches in total for males, and around 5 to 8 inches for females. Average lifespan tends to be anything between 25 and 35 years.
Mangrove Diamondback Terrapins are carnivorous and tend to feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates such as insects, snails, and tadpoles, as well as small fish.
Behavior And Habitat
This species prefers warm, shallow waters, and spends most of its time near the bottom of rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, and seagrass beds.
They are omnivorous, feeding on aquatic plants, insects, crustaceans, snails, and frogs. They are sometimes called “mud turtles” because of their habit of burrowing into wet soil.
Reproduction And Lifecycle
Diamondbacks breed once per year, producing up to 15 clutches of 10 to 12 eggs each. Eggs take about 60 days to incubate, and hatchlings measure about 1 foot in total length, weighing about 5 ounces.
These turtles are considered to be vulnerable, and so there are a number of programs and breeding schemes to help offer them the protection that they need and to increase their numbers in the wild.
Ornate Diamondback Terrapin Malaclemys Terrapin Macrospilota
The Ornate Diamondback Terrapins (Malacmeys) are native to the eastern coast of North America, from Canada to Mexico. This species is part of the family Testudinidae, which includes all turtles, tortoises, and terrapins.
Shells of this species are relatively flat and can be anywhere from 7 to 16 inches long.
Shells are usually dark brown or olive in color, but can vary depending on the environment, and may also have small light brown or yellow spots.
These turtles can live for between 25 and 35 years and once again, females are larger than males, with lengths of 5 to 8 inches, compared to the 4 to 6-inch lengths of the males.
Ornate Diamondbacks are carnivores and tend to favor mostly aquatic invertebrates like worms, mollusks, and other small animals.
Behavior And Habitat
Ornate Diamondbacks spend most of their time basking in the sun and will retreat into the water when it gets too hot.
They are typically found along salted coastal flats, as well as mudflats, where they dig holes to lay their eggs.
Like many reptiles, Ornate Diamondbacks reproduce every 2 to 3 years.
Females produce up to 30 eggs at a time, and these take about 50 days to hatch. Hatchlings weigh between 0.5 and 1 pound and can grow to be over 9 inches in total length.
Ornate Diamondbacks are listed as threatened by the IUCN, due to habitat loss.
However, there are several conservation efforts being made to protect this species, including captive breeding programs, and reintroductions into suitable habitats.
Peninsula Cooter Pseudemys Floridana Peninsularis
The Peninsular Cooters are native to the southeastern United States, from Texas to South Carolina. The name comes from the peninsula-like shape of their shells.
Cooters are medium-sized turtles, measuring between 8 and 12 inches in total length, and weighing between 1 and 3 pounds – in some cases, they have been known to reach lengths of 15 inches.
Their shell is very similar to that of the common snapping turtle, except that it has a yellow or orange pattern on top of a black or darker brown base, with a yellow or orange tone on the underside of the shell.
Skin is usually black, bearing orange and yellow stripes, and these creatures can live for between 20 and 40 years in total.
Cooters feed primarily on fish, shrimp, crabs, and crayfish, although they do eat some terrestrial insects. They are also partial to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as other forms of vegetation.
Behavior And Habits
Cooters are diurnal, spending much of their day basking in the sun. When temperatures get cold, they burrow down into the ground to hibernate.
Where possible, cooters prefer to spend their time in a water stream but have also been found in ponds and lakes where these are readily available for them.
Reproduction And Lifespan
Female cooters lay between 20 and 60 eggs per clutch, and incubation lasts approximately 100 days.
Hatchlings measure around 10 to 12 inches in total length, weigh between 0.3 and 0.7 pounds, and reach sexual maturity after two years.
Cooters are not currently considered endangered, and there are no major concerns about their survival in the long term.
It should be noted that there are several threats facing them, however, including the growth of new housing developments, road construction, and pollution.
Red-Eared Slider Trachemys Scripta Elegans
The Red-eared Slider is one of the smallest freshwater turtles in North America and is native only to the eastern half of the country.
Sliders range in size from 7 to 12 inches in total length, depending on age and gender. Males tend to be larger than females, and both sexes possess a red ear patch.
Sliders are generally light-colored, ranging from grayish-brown to tan, and they often sport a dark stripe along the sides of their bodies.
They can be most easily identified thanks to the inclusion of small red lines, located on the sides of the head, and the skin is usually black or brown, often with yellow stripes. They can live for between 30 and 40 years.
Sliders are omnivorous and feed mainly on small invertebrates such as snails, worms, slugs, and insect larvae. They are also partial towards crustaceans, mollusks, and plant matter, as well as fruits and vegetables.
Sliders inhabit a wide variety of habitats, including swamps, marshes, bogs, and rivers. They are particularly fond of areas with dense vegetation and are commonly found in wooded areas.
Behavior And Habit
Sliders are active during daylight hours and are most likely to be seen basking in the sun or near aquatic vegetation. They are typically solitary animals, although they may form groups when food supplies are low.
Males become sexually mature at 2 years old, while females reach reproductive maturity at 4 years old.
Females lay clutches of up to 50 eggs each year, which hatch within three months. The average lifespan of this species is 5 to 7 years.
Threats / Status
There are many threats to the continued existence of the Red-eared Slider, including habitat destruction, predation by raccoons, otters, snakes, and birds, competition with invasive species, and disease.
However, the species is not listed as threatened or endangered under any federal or state laws.
Spotted Turtle Clemmys Guttata
The Spotted Turtle is another medium-sized freshwater turtle and is native to the southeastern United States.
Spotted turtles have an elongated body, and are characterized by a large head, short neck, and broad tail.
Their shells are smooth, and they lack scales.
They are amongst the smallest turtles, reaching just 3 to 4 inches for both males and females, and can be distinguished from other similar species due to the presence of spots on the shell, which are usually arranged in two rows.
These spots vary in color but are usually red, yellow, or orange. In addition, the lower portion of the shell will be orange, red, or yellow, and will usually feature a pattern in a bold black.
The skin in this area is the same shade, while the skin on the upper side of the body emulates the colors and design of the top portion of the shell.
These turtles can reach a grand old age of between 100 and 150 years old.
Spotted turtles are omnivores, and feed primarily on fish and invertebrate prey. They will eat insects, amphibians, and even small mammals if necessary.
Habitat And Behavior
Spotted turtles prefer shallow water environments, where they can hide beneath floating plants and logs. They are typically nocturnal and spend much of their time basking in the sun.
Reproduction & Lifespan
Female spotted turtles reproduce every two years, laying about 20 eggs per clutch.
Hatchlings measure around 1 inch long and grow quickly over the next few years. They reach sexual maturity at 3 years old and can live for up to 25 years.
Like all turtles, the Spotted turtle faces numerous dangers, including loss of habitat, pollution, and introduced predators. It is currently labeled as being endangered as a result of these threats.
Striped Mud Turtle Kinosternon Baurii
The Striped mud turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles found in North America.
These turtles are very small, and usually reach a maximum of 5 inches in length, making them the smallest of all mudcrabs.
They are characterized by having three stripes running across the length of the shell, as well as the head – these will be lighter than the rest of the colors on the turtle, and make it easier to identify this species.
Striped mud turtles can live for between 15 and 20 years, making their lifespan slightly less than some of the other turtles on our list.
These turtles are omnivorous, eating mostly aquatic animals such as crayfish, shrimp, crabs, snails, frogs, and worms as well as enjoying a range of plants and vegetation.
Habitat & Behavior
These turtles are most commonly found in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. They are also known to inhabit swamps, marshes, and mangroves.
They are active during the day, coming out of hiding when it gets dark. They are nocturnal, spending the majority of their time sleeping underground.
Mud turtles lay clutches of 10-20 eggs each year, which hatch after approximately three months. Hatchlings measure around 2.5 inches and grow rapidly over the following 5 years.
Like many other turtle species, the Striped mud turtle faces numerous threats, including habitat destruction, pollution, and invasive species.
They are not currently considered to be endangered according to the officials, but a close eye is kept on known groups in the wild to help ensure their ongoing health, safety, and survival.
Stripe Neck Musk Turtle Sternotherus Minor Peltifer
The Stripe neck musk turtle is native to the United States and is found throughout the Florida region.
This turtle has a broad, flat carapace that is covered by pronounced ridges right in the center – this will become much less apparent as the turtle ages and develops.
The tail is short and rounded, and the eyes are large and protruding. These turtles have light upper shells, occasionally with black streaks, and yellowish sections under the shells.
Skin tends to be black and may have faint brown lines, and these creatures usually measure between 3 and 4 inches. They can also live for anything between 20 and 40 years in total.
Musk turtles are carnivorous, and mainly eat mollusks, crustaceans, insects, fish, and plant matter.
They are opportunistic feeders, so they may switch from one food source to another depending on what is available.
Musk turtles prefer shallow water areas, where there is plenty of vegetation for cover. They are often found near the shoreline or along the edges of streams and rivers.
Musk turtles spend much of their time buried under the sand at the bottom of the river or lake. When they need to come up for air, they use their long tails to push themselves into the surface.
Musk turtles reproduce every two years, laying clutches of 3-7 eggs. The eggs take about 4 weeks to incubate. Hatchlings mature quickly, reaching sexual maturity within 6 months.
Musk turtles face several threats, including habitat loss due to development, pollution, and competition with nonnative species.
It is important to protect these turtles because they play an essential role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Suwannee River Cooter Pseudemys Concinna Suwanniensis
The Suwannee River Cooter is native to the southeastern part of the United States, ranging from Alabama through Georgia and South Carolina. This species lives in freshwater habitats, such as rivers, lakes, and springs.
These turtles tend to reach around 8 to 12 inches, though some females reach up to15 inches in length.
Their shell is smooth and colored with a dark brown or black shade on the top, as well as a pattern in a lighter color.
On the lower half of the shell, you can expect to see an orange or yellow, and the skin may have bold yellow stripes. The lifespan for the Suwannee River Cooter can be between 20 and 40 years in total.
Cooters are omnivores, eating plants, animals, and even some invertebrates.
They are generalist predators, meaning they don’t specialize in any particular prey type, but do typically prefer vegetation over meat wherever possible.
They prefer slow-moving waters and like to stay close to the banks. They generally inhabit clear, clean water, although they do sometimes venture into brackish environments.
They tend to bury themselves in the substrate when threatened, using their tail as a prop to keep them above the mud.
They lay clutches of 2-4 eggs each year, but only produce one brood per season. Females lay eggs throughout spring and summer, while males typically mate during fall and winter.
There are many threats to this species, including habitat destruction. Habitat degradation can lead to increased turbidity and sedimentation, which can affect the health of the ecosystem.
Also, invasive species can compete with cooters for food sources. They are not currently listed as endangered.
Three-toed Box Turtle Terrapene Carolina Triunguis
This turtle is native to North America, living primarily in the eastern United States. However, it has been introduced to other parts of the world, including Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
Box turtles tend to grow anywhere from 5 to 7 inches in length, depending on sex. These turtles have three toes on each foot, and their shells are usually light green or gray, with some bearing an olive shade.
The underside of the shell is often darker than the upper side, and there may also be a stripe along the upper section, which also tends to have more of a dome shape, with one color across the top of the shell – this is usually lighter in color – and one color on the sides.
The three-toed box turtle can live for between 50 and 100 years.
Box turtles are omnivores and will eat insects, small fish, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans, and worms, as well as vegetation and plant matter.
Box turtles live in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, swamps, marshes, and prairies.
They prefer to live on land, as opposed to water and are most common in moist areas that contain woody debris, such as fallen trees, logs, stumps, and dead branches.
Box turtles are nocturnal, spending much of their time underground during daylight hours. During the day, these turtles will hide under leaf litter, logs, rocks, or other objects.
At night, they emerge to feed and bask. When basking, they will stretch out their limbs and flatten their bodies against the ground.
Box turtles breed once every two to four years.
Males and females both come together at mating sites, where they dig nests, lay eggs and then cover them up again. Each female lays approximately 4-6 eggs, and she typically mates with multiple males.
Once the eggs hatch, the mother leaves the nest and returns home. She carries her young around until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
The main threat to box turtles is habitat loss. They are sensitive to changes in their environment, so deforestation, urbanization, and pollution can cause problems.
In addition, invasive species can take advantage of the lack of competition, eating the eggs and young of box turtles.
Yellowbelly Slider Trachemys Scripta Scripta
This slider turtle is found throughout the southeastern part of the United States, ranging from Texas to Virginia. It prefers sandy soil, but can also live in rocky areas and even freshwater ponds.
Sliders are usually between 8 and 12 inches long, with a very wide head and neck, and a flat tail. Their shells are dark on the top, while the yellow belly helps to give this species its distinctive name.
Skin tends to be black with yellowish stripes, and many Yellow Belly sliders can live for between 50 and 100 years.
Sliders are omnivorous, feeding mainly on crayfish, snails, slugs, frogs, and tadpoles, as well as plants and vegetables.
These turtles like to live near water, so they can easily find food. They prefer water that is slower moving, including marshes, lakes, creeks, and ponds.
These turtles are active by day, hiding in burrows made by other animals. At night, they crawl out to hunt for prey.
Males and females reach sexual maturity when they are 2 years old.
Females lay clutches of 10-20 eggs, and the average clutch size is 15-17. After hatching, the mothers carry the babies around until they are ready to leave the nest.
The main threats to sliders include habitat destruction, road construction, and development. Habitat destruction causes them to lose access to food sources, which leads to starvation.
Road construction makes it difficult for them to get away from predators, and development destroys their natural nesting grounds.
Florida is a great place for nature lovers to experience all of their favorite types of turtles; this is a thriving and exciting region and has plenty of wildlife to explore and learn more about.
By learning more about the species and types of turtles that are native to Florida, you can increase their protection and conservation, and help them to thrive for longer.