Sunday, January 8, 2017

Native Species Profile - Painted Turtle

Michigan is home to ten species of turtles.  By far the most common species is the Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta).  This species can be found throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsula.  The only species that approaches it in terms of distribution in Michigan is the Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina).  The Common Snapping turtle is also found throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsula.  However, it is not found on Isle Royale while the Painted Turtle is.   Overall the Painted turtle can be found across much of the northern United States and southern Canada, from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific.  It ranges as far south as the Gulf of Mexico in the east and southwest into Colorado and New Mexico.

Part of the reason for the broad distribution of this species is its adaptability.  Painted Turtles prefer still or slow-moving permanent bodies of water such as lakes and ponds., but they will use swiftly-flowing rivers and streams as well as season wetlands on a temporary basis.  Painted Turtles are often found traveling overland in search of new bodies of water.  They are often seen basking on log, rocks, or floating vegetation.

Painted Turtles often bask in large number on logs and other objects in the water

Painted Turtles are generally small.  Adults have a shell that measures from 4 to about 9 inches in length.  The upper surface of the shell (carapace) is olive green to black colored.  The lower half of the shell (plastron) is yellowish with a dark blotch in the center.  The outer edge of the carapace has red or orange blotches/spots.  The skin of the turtle's head legs, and tail is also olive green to black in color.  The head and neck have yellow (and sometimes red) stripes.  The Painted Turtles found in Mid-Michigan belong to a sub-species called the Midland Painted Turtle that commonly has red stripes on its head and neck.

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtles are omnivores.  They normally feed on aquatic invertebrates such as insects, crayfish, and snails.  They also frequently eat tadpoles and small fish.  A large part of their diet consists of algae and aquatic plants.

Painted Turtle - note yellow stripes on neck and orange blotches along the edge of the carapace (upper shell)

During the winter months, Painted Turtles bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of ponds lakes and rivers where they will hibernate from October/November until late March or early April.  It is not uncommon for Painted Turtles to be active in cold weather and people occasionally see them swimming around under ice. 

Basic Information

Painted Turtle
Chrysemys picta

Size:  4-9" long

Habitat:  Permanent water sources such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and creeks

Eats:  aquatic insects, fish, tadpole, crayfish, snails, plants

No comments:

Post a Comment