Year of the Turtle
Northeast Region

Turtles of the Month - Student Corner


Diamondback terrapin. Credit: USFWS



Spotted turtle


Painted turtle


Red-eared Slider


Wood turtle. Credit: Linh Phu


Eastern Musk turtle


2011 Year of the turtle graphic

Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)

Diamondback terrapin. Credit: USFWS
Diamondback terrapin. Credit: USFWS

Description: Shells covered in gray, diamond-shaped plates. Has a horned beak and webbed feet with strong claws. Skin on legs and neck is rough and scaly. Females generally measure 6 to 10 inches and males 4 to 6 inches.

Habitat: Live in brackish water and salt marshes, often basking on mud flats. Hibernate in river embankments and at the bottoms of creeks and rivers. Found all along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts south to Florida and along the Gulf coast to Texas. 

Diet: Consists mainly of mollusks including clams, snails and mussels, but also eats fish, worms, insects and crustaceans.

Status: Federally listed as a species of concern. Protected by the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Threats Include: Reduction of salt marsh habitat and alteration of water composition due to ditching, dredging and channelization; disruption of nesting turtles and hatchings through human activity and mortality from off-road vehicles; excessive predation of eggs and hatchlings; water pollution; trapped and drown in improperly discarded “ghost” netting and caught in estuarine crab traps; road mortality.

To learn more, visit:

Chesapeake Bay Program
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

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Last updated: September 7, 2011