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Terrapene carolina (eastern box turtle)

The eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina, is well known to Midwestern nature lovers. It is the most commonly encountered away-from-water turtle in the lower Midwest, where it is often found in spring and early summer in upland forests. The boxy shell has steep sides, and it extremely variable in its markings, although the basic concept of a dark brown shell with yellow spots and lines is almost always maintained. The undershell is hinged between the third and fourth plates, and is also dark brown, with a few yellow markings.

The similar ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornata, is a Great Plains species whose range extends into Missouri and parts of Illinois; it has a more consistent pattern of yellow lines, especially on the undershell.

Unfortunately, box turtle populations are declining in many areas—including the Midwest—as a result of human development, leading to loss of habitat, death on roads and highways, and so on.

Midwestern range of Terrapene carolina
midwestern range

Terrapene carolina
box turtle shells have steep sides


Terrapene carolina
if you find one admire it, perhaps even pick it up—but then leave it in the woods!

Terrapene carolina
this particularly colorful box turtle was warming itself on a road... death by automobiles is not uncommon for this species


Terrapene carolina
variability in colors and textures of the undershell

Terrapene carolina
variability in colors and textures of the undershell

 

Terrapene carolina
variability in colors and textures of the undershell

Terrapene carolina
variability in colors and textures of the undershell


Terrapene carolina
a juvenile


Terrapene carolina
yummy snail

 

Terrapene carolina
most males (80%) have red eyes...

 

Terrapene carolina
...females do not


Terrapene carolina
"...for copulation, the male slips backwardxs until his carpace rests on the ground, while the rear ankles of the female press downward and medially on his feet, which have shifted farther beneath her carpace. After several seconds he leans still farther back, then returns to the vertical position" (Ernst & Lovich 2009)



References: Ballinger & Lynch 1983, Kricher & Morrison, 1988, Phillips, Brandon & Moll 1999, Ernst & Lovich 2009, Shupe 2019, IUCN 2020.



Kuo, Michael & Melissa Kuo (May, 2020). Terrapene carolina (eastern box turtle). Retrieved from the midwestnaturalist.com website: www.midwestnaturalist.com/terrapene_carolina.html

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