The painted turtle has a neck covered with yellow or red stripes which appear to be painted on as their name suggests. The rest of their skin is colored black.
On the back is the smooth carapace (upper shell). This is colored black, olive or brown and patterned with red, black or yellow marking along the edges. The plastron (underside of the shell) is colored yellow or orange with a central dark blotch.
Female painted turtles are typically larger than males. On average painted turtles measure between 15 and 25cm (6-9.75in) long with a weight of 800-1400g (1.5-3lbs).
Painted turtles are omnivores. Their diet includes plants such as fruits and leaves along with small animals including fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. They will also feed on small amounts of carrion.
Younger animals tend to be more carnivorous while adults eat more plants.
Like most turtles they lack teeth and instead tear their food with horny ridges on the upper and lower jaw.
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North America is the native home of the painted turtle. Here they can be found throughout Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Introduced populations have been established in Germany, Indonesia, the Philippines and Spain. They have also been introduced to the state of California in the USA where they did not naturally occur.
Painted turtles are semi-aquatic. They make their home in rivers and marshes. Their habitats may include permanent or temporary water bodies. Often their habitat includes densely vegetated waters that have little to no flow. They favor rivers with soft, muddy bottoms.
Breeding takes place from mid-spring to mid-summer.
The female lays between 2 and 20 soft-shelled eggs in her clutch. The nest is between 10 and 12cm (4-4.7in) deep and dug in soft, sandy soil. These are incubated for between 60 and 80 days.
Young are independent as soon as they hatch.
The gender of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature at which they incubate. Low temperatures produce males while the higher temperature creates males.
During the day they will bask in the sun to obtain warmth. Large groups may be seen basking together. A group of turtles is called a ‘bale.’ Sitting in the sun also helps to keep their skin free of parasites.
Throughout winter they may hibernate by burrowing in the mid during which time their body becomes very cold.
Predators and Threats
To defend themselves against predators the painted turtle can pull its head and legs inside the shell. They may also bury themselves in the mud.
Humans impact their population through habitat loss, vehicle strike, pollution, capture for the pet trade and increased predation from species which thrive near human settlements.
Four US states list the painted turtle as their state reptile.
Painted turtles are the most common turtle species in the United States.
Public Domain. USFWS.
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