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Common Map Turtle Fact File

Graptemys geographica

Credit: USFWS Midwest Region from United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

150-400g

(5.3-14.1oz)

Length

9-26cm

(3.5-10.25in)

Lifespan

Wild 30 years

Captive 50 years

Diet

Carnivores

Snails, Clams

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The common map turtle is a reptile found in a wide area across North America in both the United States and Canada.

Here they can be found in wetland habitats with much of their life spent in the water. During the winter they enter a period of inactivity. Hatchlings spend winter in their nest before emerging to the warmth.

These animals are primarily carnivorous with most of their diet made up of mussels. Females have much larger heads and as such consume larger items of prey.

They are threatened through habitat destruction, strikes by vehicles and boats along with collection for the pet trade.

Read on to learn more about these remarkable reptiles.

Appearance

What does the common map turtle look like?

Their name is taken from the lines which can be found running across their shell. These are said to resemble the contour lines which are seen on maps. A small ridge is present on the top shell. On the underside the shell is yellow with brown lines between the scutes.

Behind each eye is a yellow spot. Yellow stripes run along their head and neck. These are also present on the legs and feet.

An average common map turtle will measure 9 to 26cm (3.5 to 10.25in) long with a weight between 150 and 400g (5.3-14.1oz). Females tend to be larger than males. Females also have an enlarged jaw.

Diet

What does the common map turtle eat?


The common map turtle is a carnivore. Their diet includes mussels, snails, crayfish and other invertebrates. Some vegetation is consumed but this mainly seems to be accidental.

Males eat smaller prey due to the smaller size of their head.

Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)

Credit: Peter Paplanus from St. Louis, Missouri, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the common map turtle?

North America is the native home of the common map turtle. Here they can be found in the United States and Canada.

In the United States they can be found in the following countries – Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Delaware, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Oklahoma. They have been introduced to the District of Colombia. Their current presence is uncertain in the following states – Louisiana and Mississippi.

They are the most widespread species of map turtle.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the common map turtle live in?

These reptiles are found in wetland habitats. They require a large body of water which features a range of items on which they can bask. Most of their habitat areas feature rocky or stony bottomed rivers.

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Reproduction

How does the common map turtle produce its young?

Breeding takes place from March through to May.

Following a successful mating the female will journey on to land and find some bare land, clay or sand where she lays her eggs.

Each clutch will see her will deposit up to 20 eggs. Egg laying takes place at night beginning soon after sunrise and often not being complete till near sunrise. She may produce up to three clutches each season.

Eggs hatch after a 75 day incubation period. They may overwinter in the nest meaning they spend longer underground before emerging.

The temperature during incubation will determine the gender of the hatchlings. When incubating at higher temperatures they will hatch female while lower temperatures produce males.

Males become sexually mature between 4 and 6 years old while females reach this at 10 years old.

Behavior

What does the common map turtle do with its day?

These reptiles will spend part of their day basking on a log or other piece of debris which has been submerged in the water. If a predator approaches they will quickly dive in to the water.

Across much of their range this species will hibernate during the winter. They will hide under a submerged log or among rocks.

Adults are active during the day.

Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)

Credit: Peter Paplanus from St. Louis, Missouri, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the common map turtle?

Natural predators of the common map turtle include racoons, coyotes and skunks. Nests face many predators including skunks, river otters and birds such as gulls.

True to its name this species is common and in certain areas will represent the majority of the turtle population. They are considered stable within their habitat.

Despite this they still face threats including degradation of their habitat, sedimentation affecting their habitat, strikes from vehicles and boats, bycatch by fishing vessels and capture to supply the pet trade.

Quick facts

They may also be known as the Northern map turtle.

This species was first described for science by Charles Alexandre LeSueur in 1817.

Their species name, geographica, is taken from two Greek words. Geo means "earth" and grapho means "write" referring to the pattern on the upper shell.

Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)

Credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

van Dijk, P.P. 2011. Graptemys geographica (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T165598A97418743. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-1.RLTS.T165598A6065540.en. Downloaded on 07 December 2021.

Virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com. 2021. Virginia Herpetological Society. [online] Available at: <http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/turtles/northern-map-turtle/northern_map_turtle.php> [Accessed 7 December 2021].

Srelherp.uga.edu. 2021. Species Profile: Common Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) | SREL Herpetology. [online] Available at: <https://srelherp.uga.edu/turtles/grageo.htm> [Accessed 7 December 2021].

Missouri Department of Conservation. 2021. Northern Map Turtle. [online] Available at: <https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/northern-map-turtle> [Accessed 7 December 2021].

Stlzoo.org. 2021. Common Map Turtle | Saint Louis Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/reptiles/turtlesandtortoises/commonmapturtle> [Accessed 7 December 2021].

Dubia.com. 2021. Common Map Turtle Care Sheet. [online] Available at: <https://dubiaroaches.com/blogs/turtle-care/common-map-turtle-care-sheet> [Accessed 7 December 2021].

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