Clemmys guttata

Clemmys guttata

Spotted Turtle
FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

Spotted turtles are small, aquatic turtles, named for the yellow polka dots scattered across their dark shells. The species occur in wetlands throughout the east coast and in the Great Lakes region of the United States, and is threatened by the loss, alteration, and fragmentation of this habitat. Climate change has the potential to impact the hydrology of the wetlands the species depends upon over time. Poaching and collection for the foreign and domestic pet trade also pose a threat for spotted turtle populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned to list the spotted turtle in July 2012 and published a substantial 90-day finding in September 2015 indicating listing may be warranted. The Service will be reviewing the species status to make a final listing determination by 2023. 

Scientific Name

Clemmys guttata
Common Name
Spotted Turtle
FWS Category
Reptiles
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus
Species

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

The species favored habitats are shallow aquatic areas, often with abundant vegetation. Individuals, in particular males, will wander some distance from wetlands, especially during the spring. 

Wetland

Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.

Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

Spotted turtles mostly eat other animals, including worms and frogs, but will also eat aquatic vegetation.  

Characteristic category

Behavior

Characteristics
Behavior

During winter months, spotted turtles will dive down to muddy wetland bottoms and drastically slow their metabolism in a process called brumation, allowing them to survive without food and very little oxygen.  

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

Spotted turtles are small aquatic turtles with a flattened shell. Males have longer tails than females.

MeasurementsLength: 3.4 to 4. 5 inches or (9 to 11.5 cm) 

 

Color & Pattern

Spotted turtles have a smooth, black shell with yellow spots. Hatchlings usually have one spot per large scute on the shell but adult spotting patterns are variable, with spots generally increasing with age.  There is orange or yellow coloration on the head, neck, and forelegs. 

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics
Lifecycle

Spotted turtles lay between two and eight eggs in early spring that hatch in 40 to 80 days. Females may lay a second clutch a few days after the first. The sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the surrounding environment, with higher temperatures producing females, and lower temperatures producing males. Spotted turtles reach maturity between seven and 14 years of age.  

“Spotted Turtle.” Chesapeake Bay Program, https://www.chesapeakebay.net/S=0/fieldguide/critter/spotted_turtle

Lifespan

Spotted turtles can live 65 to 110 years.  

Reproduction

Courtship and mating occur in early spring, with males pursuing females in an underwater courtship display. Nesting occurs in May and June in open, sunny locations with moist and well-drained soils. Females typically lay one clutch of eggs, that emerge in August or September.  

“Spotted Turtle.” Chesapeake Bay Program, https://www.chesapeakebay.net/S=0/fieldguide/critter/spotted_turtle

Geography

Characteristics
Range

This species can be found throughout the east coast of the United States and the Great Lakes region.  

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