One of the most common semi-aquatic turtles in Missouri. The color of the upper shell is olive-brown with numerous black and yellow lines. The lower shell is yellow with a large dark brown blotch on each scute. The head and limbs are dark green with narrow black and yellow lines. A distinct red or orange stripe is normally present on each side of the head behind the eye. Old males are often covered with an excess of black pigment that obscures both the red stripes and the yellow ones.
Trachemys scripta elegans
Emydidae (basking, marsh and box turtles) in the order Testudines (turtles)
Length: 5–8 inches.
Where To Find
Statewide, except for a few northern counties.
Can live in a variety of aquatic habitats, including rivers, sloughs, oxbow lakes and constructed lakes and ponds, as long as there is ample aquatic vegetation for both food and security, and suitable basking sites. A mud bottom is preferred.
They eat aquatic plants and animals. Foraging takes place in early morning and late afternoon.
This species spends much time basking in the sun on logs or rocks. The name “slider” comes from their habit of sliding quickly into the water from their basking spots. They become active in March and remain active until mid-October. Courtship and mating occur between March and June. Females leave the water and lay up to 22 eggs in a clutch. Hatching usually takes place in late summer or early autumn.
Millions of these turtles were sold as pets before 1975, with most of them dying due to improper care. Sales were curtailed when it was learned that the turtles or their water could potentially transmit salmonella to their handlers, including children.
In their native land, these turtles fill a role of herbivore and mid-level carnivore. However, American-bred sliders are being supplied to the pet trade in Europe and Asia, where some have been released to the wild. There, they are causing a decline of native species, especially in southern Europe.
About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.