Reptiles

Amphibians

Plains Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata)

Description

This smallish, terrestrial turtle has a moderately domed shell that is relatively flat on top. Coloration varies greatly, but the carapace is typically black or dark brown with yellow lines radiating from the center of each scute. The plastron is boldly patterned in black and yellow "brush strokes". Head, neck, and limb coloration may include browns, blacks, oranges, and yellows arranged in no clearly discernible pattern. Adult males of this species have a slightly concave plastron; bright red eyes; and relatively longer, thicker tail. Adult females have a flat plastron; brown or dull red eyes; and relatively shorter, thinner tail. Juveniles have a slightly keeled, less-domed carapace than adults.

A single sub-species, the Plains Box Turtle (Terrepene ornata ornata) inhabits the state.

This species can be easily confused with the more common Three-toed Box Turtle (Terrepene carolina triunguis). While numerous distinguishing characteristics exist, assurance of identification is most easily achieved by considering the plastron markings. While the plastron of a Three-toed Box Turtle is generally plain, the Plains Box Turtle has a plastron of bold, black and yellow "brush strokes":

This species is also known as a Terrapin, or (incorrectly) Tortoise.


Habitats

This species inhabits prairies or farmland of former natural prairies.


Habits and Life History


Prey and Hunting Techniques

This species is primarily a carnivore, consuming a wide variety of smaller prey such as insects, worms, snails, etc. It is an opportunistic feeder that is also known to scavenge. A small amount of vegetation (berries, mushrooms, etc.) may also be consumed.


Temperament and Defense

While generally mild-mannered, this species can be a bit more "nippy" than its cousin, the Three-toed Box Turtle. When first captured, a specimen is most likely to seal up tightly into its shell.


Conservation

This species is affored special protections and should not be collected or disturbed. The reduction of natural prairie habitats in Arkansas is of major concern. Other threats include road mortality and collection. Their slow life cycle may leave populations particularly vulnerable to even slight alterations of the ecosystem. A 2007 citizen-scientist survey of box turtles, coordinated by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, should shed light on the current status of the species in the state.


State Distribution and Abundance

This species occurs primarily in the western portion of the state, but the distribution is spotty and mostly limited to areas of natural prairie habitat. Abundance is considered low.

Gallery

Ornate Box Turtle from Missouri Ornate Box Turtle from Missouri Ornate Box Turtle from Missouri Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Habitat Ornate Box Turtle Habitat Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata) Ornate Box Turtle at First Federal Bank's 29th Annual Turtle Races Ornate Box Turtle at First Federal Bank's 29th Annual Turtle Races Ornate Box Turtle at First Federal Bank's 29th Annual Turtle Races Ornate Box Turtle at First Federal Bank's 29th Annual Turtle Races Ornate Box Turtle at First Federal Bank's 29th Annual Turtle Races Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Three-toed Box Turtle and Ornate Box Turtle Three-toed Box Turtle and Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle Ornate Box Turtle

Contributors


Bibliography

  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
  • Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.

Discussion

  • While box turtles can make good pets, they have special requirements that are rarely met unless a keeper has done their research. Probably the biggest mistake is feeding turtles iceberg lettuce, which hold little nutritional value. ~ kaptainkory February 23, 2007, at 09:36 AM
  • Please do not paint turtles! This only makes them more noticeable to predators. ~ kaptainkory February 23, 2007, at 09:36 AM

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Page last modified on December 27, 2013, at 06:46 PM