Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) - Ohio Herp Atlas

Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta

Order: Testudines

Family: Emydidae

Should I pick it up? No, you should not disturb or remove turtles from their natural habitat unless you are marking them. Some turtles also carry diseases such as salmonella.

Conservation status: There are many midland painted turtles found in Ohio. The midland is the only subspecies of painted turtles found in Ohio, but painted turtles can be found all over the U.S. and southern Canada (Reese et al. 2000).

Identification: Midland painted turtles range from 3-10 inches in length, and they have dark green/brown shell. Their distinguishing characteristic is that their head, legs, and under shell have bright colors that are yellow, orange, and red. They call these turtles “painted turtles” because it looks like the bright colors were painted on them (Lincoln Park Zoo).

Taxonomy: There are four subspecies of the painted turtle (C. picta). The four subspecies are C. p. belliI (western), C. p. dorsalis (southern), C. p. picta (eastern), and C. p. marginata (midland). (ITIS Report)

Range and habitat: Midland painted turtles are usually found in quiet areas in freshwater. These could be wetlands, marshes, lakes, ponds, or anything similar with shallow waters. When temperatures are cool outside, they tend to go into deeper water where they can burrow into the floor to keep warm. (ODNR) They enjoy basking in the sun to absorb energy (Lincoln Park Zoo). Nests can range from 0-600 m from the nearest body of water (Rowe et al. 2005).

Ecology: Midland painted turtles are omnivores. They are generalists who will eat plants, fish, insects or crustaceans (ODNR). The breeding period of midland painted turtles are usually the summer months from May-July (ODNR). The incubation usually lasts 10-11 weeks which typically produces 4-15 offspring (ODNR). The sex of all turtle species in Ohio depends on the temperature when the eggs develop (ODNR). Eggs that are on the top of the nest in a warmer temperature are female, and eggs that are on the bottom of the nest in color temperatures are male (ODNR). There are different theories of the marginata subspecies. The first suggests that the midland species is the parent species of the three other painted turtle subspecies (Reese et al. 2000). Another theory suggests that the midland turtle is a hybrid of the subspecies bellii and dorsalis (Reese et al. 2000). Neither of these theories are proven nor rejected (Reese et al. 2000).

Conservation & Management: In the United States, there is an abundant number of midland painted turtles. There are people capturing these turtles and taking them as pets or selling them which could negatively impact the ecosystem and population numbers. According to The Wildlife Society, the midland painted turtle is on Canada’s threatened or endangered list because of loss of wetland habitats and death by cars in southern Ontario.

Get involved: If you see a midland painted turtle, do not disturb it or remove it from its habitat.

Literature cited:

Reese, S. A., C. E. Crocker, D. C. Jackson, G. R. Ultsch. (2000). The physiology of hibernation among painted turtles: the midland painted turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata). Respiration Physiology. Volume 124, Issue 1. Pages 43-50. ISSN 0034-5687. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0034-5687(00)00188-2. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0034568700001882)

Rowe, J. W., Coval, K. A., and M. R. Dugan. (2005) "Nest Placement, Nest-site Fidelity and Nesting Movements in Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) on Beaver Island, Michigan," The American Midland Naturalist, 154(2), 383-397.

https://bioone.org/journals/The-American-Midland-Naturalist/volume-154/issue-2/0003-0031(2005)154[0383:NPNFAN]2.0.CO;2/Nest-Placement-Nest-site-Fidelity-and-Nesting-Movements-in-Midland/10.1674/0003-0031(2005)154[0383:NPNFAN]2.0.CO;2.full

ODNR – http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index/reptiles/midland-painted-turtle

Lincoln Park Zoo – https://www.lpzoo.org/animal/midland-painted-turtle

The Wildlife Society – https://wildlife.org/midland-painted-turtle-considered-a-species-at-risk/

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TIS Report – https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=173783#null

Invasive Species Compendium – https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/88367#toidentity

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Photographs
Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)