This small, colorful turtle has a domed upper shell and a hinged lower shell. The upper shell is usually smooth or flattened along the top, without a ridge, and is normally brown with numerous yellow lines radiating from the center of each individual plate. A yellow stripe often runs down the top. The lower shell is brown with distinct yellow spots and blotches. The head and limbs are brown or black with yellow spots and blotches. There are normally four toes on each hind leg.
Similar species: The three-toed box turtle usually has three toes on each hind leg, a ridge along the center of the top shell, and the top shell is usually olive or olive-brown with faint yellow or orange lines radiating from the center of each plate. It is more of a woodland species than the ornate box turtle and is found statewide except for extreme northern and northwestern portions.
Habitat and Conservation
Turtles have been generally declining statewide, mainly due to loss of habitat.
Missouri's subspecies of ornate box turtle is the subspecies Terrapene ornata ornata, which is officially called the plains box turtle. The other North American subspecies, the desert box turtle (T. o. luteola), occurs only in the desert southwest. The two might not be different enough to be considered separate subspecies.