Southern Painted Turtle

Emydidae (emydid turtles) in the order Testudines (turtles)

This turtle has an orange or orange-red stripe running down the center of the upper shell. It’s the only painted turtle with the stripe. The lower shell is plain yellow. The outer edge of the lower shell is often orange or orange-red. Adult southern painted turtles range in upper shell length from 4 to 5 inches and are the smallest painted turtle in North America.

Length of adult top shell: 4–5 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Prefers still, quiet water of shallow swamps, streams, sloughs and oxbow lakes. Also requires numerous basking sites. This small, brightly colored aquatic turtle is one of our state’s two subspecies of painted turtles and is found only in the Bootheel. It may be recognized as a full species in the future. Because it is limited to our southeastern swamps, it is important to preserve what is left of that habitat in our state.
Aquatic invertebrates, such as snails, crayfish and insects, make up the bulk of this turtle’s food, but some plant materials are also consumed.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Only in the southwestern corner of Missouri. The western painted turtle (another subspecies) occurs elsewhere in the state.
As a turtle that is limited to our southeastern swamps, it is a species that relies on that particular habitat for its survival. Therefore, it is important to preserve those Bootheel swamps that remain.
Life cycle: 
Courtship and mating take place in shallow water from April to June. Females laden with eggs will leave water and search for a suitable place to dig a nest and lay eggs. A south-facing, gentle slope with loose dirt or sand and some low vegetation is ideal. The average clutch has 4 eggs, and hatching occurs in 8–9 weeks.
Human connections: 
Painted turtles are often kept as pets in captivity, however a great many of those die due to improper care, including specific food, lighting, water and heating needs. But in nature, these colorful turtles take care of themselves, brightening their swampy homes as they bask in the sun.
Ecosystem connections: 
The small size of this turtle is probably due to competition with other turtles in the same area. The reduced size allows the southern painted turtle to utilize a niche that is usually not occupied by larger, similar turtles.