Spotted Turtle

Spotted Turtle

A shy inhabitant of shallow wetlands in eastern North America, the spotted turtle gets its name from the distinctive spotted pattern on its shell, which functions as effective camouflage in the dappled sunlight of the water.

Clemmys guttata


North America [VIEW MAP]

Wetlands, Woodlands

The spotted turtles may be seen virtually anytime in Georgia eXtremes at Scaly Slimy Spectacular.

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Most spotted turtle populations are small and isolated—a situation made much worse as humans drain wetlands and clear the woodland corridors between them. This prevents crucial genetic connectivity among populations, which increases their vulnerability to threats. The species is also popular as a pet, so illegal poaching continues to be a major threat to populations.

The spotted turtle has tiny yellow spots on the head, neck, legs, and carapace, with a black background color. These spots make the spotted turtle difficult to see in its habitat of darkly stained water with dappled light. Spots increase in quantity and change arrangements as the spotted turtle ages. Some spotted turtles have no spots at all, but this is very rare. As with most turtles, males are smaller than are females, and males have a concave plastron whereas this surface is flat in females. Spotted turtles are about 3.5 to 5 inches long.

Mating in spotted turtles occurs just after they emerge from winter dormancy. There are courting behaviors that involve males fighting each other over females, males chasing the female underwater while nipping her, and mounting her shell while biting her head and neck. Breeding occurs in shallow water. Females normally lay one clutch of one to eight eggs per year in a nest that they dig with their hind feet. Females cover the nest and smooth the dirt over it in order to disguise it. Incubation takes 60 to 90 days. The sex of spotted turtle hatchlings depends on the temperature of the nest during incubation. Warmer temperatures produce females, while cooler temperatures produce males.

The spotted turtles may be seen virtually anytime in Georgia eXtremes at Scaly Slimy Spectacular.

Wetlands across much of eastern North America, including parts of Canada and Georgia

Spotted turtles inhabit shallow ponds or slowly flowing marshes, typically in wooded areas with dense aquatic vegetation. This shy species is very difficult to spot, even in places where they are common, and seem to be most active in early spring.

Spotted turtles are omnivorous, eating aquatic plants and invertebrates, as well as carrion. The spotted turtle will only eat in the water. Even food items found terrestrially are brought to the water to be consumed. At the Zoo, these turtles are fed worms, crickets, and commercially prepared turtle chow.