Three-toed box turtle

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Three-toed box turtle
Three-toed Box Turtle.jpg
Status TNC T5.svg
Secure  (NatureServe)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Emydidae
Genus: Terrapene
Species:
Subspecies:
T. c. triunguis
Trinomial name
Terrapene carolina triunguis
(Agassiz, 1857)
Synonyms [1]
  • Cistudo triunguis
    Agassiz, 1857
  • Cistudo carolina var. triunguis
    Garman, 1892
  • Terrapene triunguis
    Baur, 1893
  • Onychotria triunguis
    Cope, 1895
  • Terrapene carolina triunguis
    Strecker, 1910
  • Terrapene whitneyi
    O.P. Hay, 1916
  • Terrapene bulverda
    O.P. Hay, 1920
  • Terrapene impressa
    O.P. Hay, 1924
  • Terrapene llanensis
    Oelrich, 1953

The three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis) is a subspecies within the genus of hinge-shelled turtles commonly referred to as box turtles. This subspecies is native to the south-central part of the United States and is the official reptile of the state of Missouri. [2]

Contents

Description

Three-toed box turtles are so named due to the number of toes on the back feet, but some think that there are some four-toed examples too. However, some speculate that the four-toed individuals are actually eastern box turtle × three-toed box turtle hybrids. Three-toed box turtles have a domed shell which grows to an average 4.5 to 5 inches in length. The record shell length for this subspecies is 7 inches. The highest part of its carapace or upper shell is more posteriorly positioned than in any of the other subspecies. [3] The dorsal and limb coloration is commonly completely absent, although some dark blotches are common in adult turtles. These areas more often being a uniform olive green or tan color. Sometimes, faint yellow dots or lines are visible in the center of each large scute. [4] In the males, the head and throat often display yellow, red, or orange spots. [3] [5] Frequently, the bottom shell or plastron is a straw yellow color, and has far fewer dark markings than the plastrons of the other subspecies. [6]

Distribution and habitat

From the west to the east of its range, the three-toed box turtle can be found from eastern Texas to the northern edge of the Florida Panhandle. Its northernmost range is in Missouri and Kansas, while the southernmost one is in Louisiana. [7] Three-toed box turtles interbreed with other subspecies of common box turtles which overlap the borders of this area. An example of this occurs in the eastern Mississippi valley, where this species is difficult to distinguish from the eastern box turtle. [8] Being popular in the pet trade, three-toed box turtles are sometimes found well outside of their home range. It is not known whether such captives when released into the wild have any impact on the local species of such areas. These turtles are adaptive, and are possibly the only box turtle who can live happily in an indoor enclosure. [9]

Diet

Three-toed box turtles are omnivores, their diets varying with availability of food sources and the seasons. They are known to eat earthworms, insects, snails, slugs, strawberries, mushrooms, and green-leafed vegetation. They have been observed eating the eggs of quail. All box turtles will prefer live foods to vegetation.

It has also been speculated that these turtles eat poisonous mushrooms, but are not themselves sickened by the mushroom's toxins. Afterwards, the turtles then become poisonous themselves. Carr [10] believes this to be the reason why a group of boys in Mississippi became ill after eating roasted three-toed box turtles.

As pets, they have been reported to eat mealworms, corn, melon, crickets, waxworms, tomatoes, cooked eggs, fruit, and even moist dog food. They can be shy about being watched while eating, and may stop and stare back motionless if this happens.

Behavior

Three-toed box turtles are known to migrate seasonally in order to maintain their preferred humidity level. In Arkansas, three-toed box turtles were observed in grasslands in late spring, while in early spring, summer, and late fall they were found in forested areas. [11] During dry times, they dig shallow burrows into leaf litter to conserve moisture. When water is available, these turtles soak for longer periods of time than any of the other subspecies. [8]

Environment in captivity

Three-toed box turtles require care similar to that of all common box turtles, faring best in large, outdoor enclosures. These enclosures should have plenty of room to allow the turtle to burrow, but should also be protected to prevent the turtle from burrowing under enclosure fencing. Indoors, three-toed box turtles should be kept in a large wooden enclosure or a large tub, at least 30 gallons for a single turtle. Do not keep any terrestrial turtle in an aquarium, because turtles do not understand the concept of glass and will become extremely stressed if no visual barrier is given. The enclosure should have a high temperature side with a heat bulb at around 85 °F and a lower temperature side at 70 °F. The enclosure should also contain a hiding spot for the turtle as well as an area where it can soak. Peat moss bedding at around 80% humidity (moist, but not wet) is preferred for these box turtles. They also do well in bark chips and other wood-like materials. Desert materials such as gravel or sand would be too dry and difficult for the turtle to dig into, and will cause small scratches susceptible to infections. Many owners simply spray the surface area of the enclosure down at the beginning of the day in order to moisten the material and to increase the humidity of the enclosure.

Related Research Articles

Emydidae family of reptiles

Emydidae is a family of testudines (turtles) which includes close to 50 species in 10 genera. Members of this family are commonly called terrapins, pond turtles, or marsh turtles. Several species of Asian box turtle were formerly classified in the family; however, revised taxonomy has separated them to a different family (Geoemydidae). As currently defined, Emydidae is entirely a Western Hemisphere family, with the exception of two species of pond turtle.

Blandings turtle species of reptile

Blanding's turtle is a semi-aquatic turtle of the family Emydidae. This species is native to central and eastern parts of Canada and the United States. It is considered to be an endangered species throughout much of its range. Blanding's turtles are of interest in longevity research, as they show little to no common signs of aging and are physically active and capable of reproduction into eight or nine decades of life.

Painted turtle Species of reptile

The painted turtle is the most widespread native turtle of North America. It lives in slow-moving fresh waters, from southern Canada to northern Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The turtle is the only species of the genus Chrysemys, which is part of the pond turtle family Emydidae. Fossils show that the painted turtle existed 15 million years ago. Four regionally based subspecies evolved during the last ice age.

Box turtle genus of reptiles

Box turtles are North American turtles of the genus Terrapene. Although box turtles are superficially similar to tortoises in terrestrial habits and overall appearance, they are actually members of the American pond turtle family (Emydidae). The twelve taxa which are distinguished in the genus are distributed over four species. They are largely characterized by having a domed shell which is hinged at the bottom, allowing the animal to retract its head and legs and close its shell tightly to protect itself from predators.

Eastern fence lizard species of reptile

The eastern fence lizard is a medium-sized species of lizard in the family Phrynosomatidae. The species is found along forest edges, rock piles, and rotting logs or stumps in the eastern United States. It is sometimes referred to as the prairie lizard, fence swift, gray lizard, northern fence lizard or pine lizard. It is also referred to colloquially as the horn-billed lizard.

Eastern box turtle subspecies of reptile

The eastern box turtle, also known as land turtle, is a subspecies within a group of hinge-shelled turtles, normally called box turtles. T. c. carolina is native to the eastern part of the United States.

Common box turtle species of reptile

The common box turtle is a species of box turtle with six existing subspecies. It is found throughout the Eastern United States and Mexico. The box turtle has a distinctive hinged lowered shell that allows it to completely enclose itself. Its upper jaw is long and curved.

Roger Conant was an American herpetologist, author, educator and conservationist. He was Director Emeritus of the Philadelphia Zoo and Adjunct Professor at the University of New Mexico. He wrote one of the first comprehensive field guides for North American reptiles in 1958 entitled: A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, in the Peterson Field Guide series.

<i>Sternotherus odoratus</i> species of reptile

Sternotherus odoratus is a species of small turtle in the family Kinosternidae. The species is native to southeastern Canada and much of the Eastern United States. It is also known commonly as the common musk turtle, eastern musk turtle, or stinkpot due to its ability to release a foul musky odor from scent glands on the edge of its shell, possibly to deter predation. This turtle is grouped in the same family as mud turtles.

Razor-backed musk turtle species of reptile

The razor-backed musk turtle is a species of turtle in the family Kinosternidae. The species is native to the southern United States. There are no subspecies that are recognized as being valid.

<i>Graptemys</i> genus of reptiles

Graptemys is a genus of aquatic, freshwater turtles, known commonly as map turtles or sometimes sawback turtles, which are endemic to North America.

The Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtle(Apalone spinifera aspera), a subspecies in the Trionychidae family of softshell turtles, is endemic to the southeastern United States.

Big Bend slider species of turtle

The Big Bend slider, also called the Mexican Plateau slider, is a species of aquatic turtle in the family Emydidae. The species is endemic to the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

Yellow mud turtle species of reptile

The yellow mud turtle, also commonly known as the yellow-necked mud turtle, is a species of mud turtle in the family Kinosternidae. The species is endemic to the Central United States and Mexico.

Smooth softshell turtle species of reptile

The smooth softshell turtle is a species of softshell turtle of the family Trionychidae. The species is endemic to North America.

Mississippi map turtle subspecies of reptile

The Mississippi map turtle is a subspecies of land and water turtle belonging to the family Emydidae. G. p. kohni is endemic to the central United States. Map turtles get their common name from the lines and markings on the carapace which resemble the contour lines of a map. Species of map turtles occur in the Mississippi Valley from Illinois and Nebraska, southward into the Gulf States from Mississippi to Texas, usually in rivers, lakes and large streams. They tend to prefer habitat with abundant vegetation.

False map turtle species of reptile

The false map turtle is a species of turtle endemic to the United States. It is a common pet species. Two subspecies are recognized, including the nominotypical subspecies described here.

Eastern mud turtle species of reptile

The Eastern Mud turtle or common mud turtle is a common species of turtle endemic to the United States.

Loggerhead musk turtle species of reptile

The loggerhead musk turtle is a species of turtle in the family Kinosternidae. The species is native to the southern United States.

Ouachita map turtle species of reptile

The Ouachita map turtle is a species of turtle belonging to the family Emydidae.

References

  1. Fritz, Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World" (PDF). Vertebrate Zoology. 57 (2): 199. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  2. "State Symbols of Missouri: State Reptile". Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnihan. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
  3. 1 2 Ernst, Carl H.; Roger W. Barbour; Jeffery E. Lovich (1994). Nancy P. Dutro (ed.). TURTLES of the United States and Canada. Washington, USA: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 253. ISBN   1-56098-346-9.
  4. "MISSOURI'S TURTLES". Missouri Dept. of Conservation. 2006-09-19. Archived from the original on 2012-12-12. Retrieved 2006-06-30.
  5. Conant, Roger; Joseph T. Collins (1991) [1958]. Roger T. Peterson (ed.). Peterson's Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern and Central American. (illustrators) Isabelle H. Conant & Tom R. Johnson (3rd ed.). Boston, USA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p.  53. ISBN   0-395-58389-6.
  6. Carr, Archie (1983) [1952]. Handbook of Turtles, The Turtles of the United States, Canada, and Baja California. Ithaca, USA: Cornell University Press. p. 153. ISBN   0-8014-0064-3.
  7. Conant, Roger; Joseph T. Collins (1991) [1958]. Roger T. Peterson (ed.). Peterson's Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern and Central American. (illustrators) Isabelle H. Conant & Tom R. Johnson (3rd ed.). Boston, USA: Houghton Mifflin Company. Map 31. ISBN   0-395-58389-6.
  8. 1 2 Ernst, Carl H.; Roger W. Barbour; Jeffery E. Lovich (1994). Nancy P. Dutro (ed.). TURTLES of the United States and Canada. Washington, USA: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 255. ISBN   1-56098-346-9.
  9. Conant, Roger; Joseph T. Collins (1991) [1958]. Roger T. Peterson (ed.). Peterson's Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern and Central American. (illustrators) Isabelle H. Conant & Tom R. Johnson (3rd ed.). Boston, USA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p.  52. ISBN   0-395-58389-6.
  10. Carr, Archie (1983) [1952]. Handbook of Turtles, The Turtles of the United States, Canada, and Baja California. Ithaca, USA: Cornell University Press. p. 155. ISBN   0-8014-0064-3.
  11. Kingsbury, Bruce (2005). "Three-toed Box Turtle". The Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Management. Indiana-Purdue University. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2006-06-30.

Further reading