Turtle Fact Sheet
GENUS & SPECIES: Trachemys scripta
Slider turtles are
among the most conspicuous and abundant of all basking turtles. In spring
or fall, or any time the weather is mild and the sun is out, individuals
or groups of slider turtles may rest on logs, stumps or rocks.
They are brown or olive
green, usually with a prominent patch
of yellow on the side of the head. The
lower jaw is rounded. The shells of yellow-bellied slider turtles average
in size from 5 to 8 inches; the record is about one foot. The yellow blotch behind the eye is the
most conspicuous marking and is most prominent in juveniles and females.
The yellow underside of the turtle's shell
sometimes is marked with round dusky smudges; these markings may be reduced
in older turtles. Also, adult males may become very dark.
Slider turtles are abundant in the ponds and streams of the Southeast.
The yellow-bellied slider turtle is found
in a wide variety of habitats, including Carolina bays, sloughs, sinkholes,
oxbow lakes, swamps, rivers, lakes and ponds. Sometimes they travel over
land between bodies of water.
Yellow-bellied slider turtles are a
semiaquatic species. Except for terrestrial excursions, the animals remain
in water where submerged and floating vegetation is abundant. They move
on land to lay their eggs in a terrestrial nest. The animals also move
on land to and from hibernation sites or alternate feeding areas and to
leave unsuitable aquatic habitats.
The periods of
greatest overland and aquatic movement usually are in spring and fall.
In the winter, slider turtles become dormant, but the animals sometimes
are active on sunny winter days. Summer is a period of reduced basking
activity, compared to spring and fall.
Mating occurs in the spring, although courtship behavior by males has
been observed in both fall and winter. In early spring, females use their
rear feet to dig nest cavities in which they lay eggs; the number of eggs
depends on the size of the female. The young hatch in about three months.
The hatchlings remain in the nest for the fall and winter. The next spring,
the hatchlings emerge from the nest and enter the water to begin feeding.
Juveniles prefer a diet of insects, dead fish, tadpoles and other meat
items. Adults also prefer a high- protein diet when it is available. But
slider turtles can subsist on a vegetative diet, although their growth
rates may be significantly lower than that of turtles whose diet is mostly
meat. Plant materials in the slider turtle's diet include algae, leaves,
stems, roots, fruits and seeds. They feed on larger invertebrates, such
as water insects, and vertebrates such as small fish, tadpoles and frogs.
Slider turtles are not normally able to capture healthy fish.
- Sliders, as
well as other species of turtles, can live for more than a quarter of
a century. These animals show no signs of senility at this age, research
at SREL found that the two best techniques for capturing turtles (which
are returned to their habitat after they are marked) are baited aquatic
traps and terrestrial drift fences with pitfall traps. The drift fence,
about two feet high, encircles a habitat; buckets are buried on both
sides of the fence every 30 feet or so. Animals moving in and out of
the habitat fall into the pitfall traps.
- Most male yellow-bellied
slider turtles reach reproductive age when they are between 4 and 5-1/2
inches in length. The length of females at maturity varies from population
to population. It is less than 6-1/2 inches in some and more than 8
inches in other populations.
Researchers at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory have studied slider
turtles and other species for more than 25 years. Some of the significant
findings are: mud turtles hibernate on land; clutch size can be determined
by X-ray photography; and low levels of radioactivity occur in turtles
on the Savannah River Site. The long-term perspective of turtle researchers
at SREL has led scientists to the belief that senility does not seem to
be a characteristic of slider turtles.
Throughout the Southeast from southeast Virginia to northern Florida,
and to Texas and Central America.