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Related FAQs: Turtles, Turtles 2, Sliders, Turtle Identification, Turtle Behavior, Turtle Compatibility, Turtle Selection, Turtle Systems, Turtle Systems 2, Turtle Feeding, Turtle Disease, Turtle Disease 2, Turtle Disease 3, Turtle Reproduction, & by Species: Musk/Mud Turtles, Other Sliders/Emydids (Pond, Painted...), Softshells, Snapping Turtles, Mata Matas, Tortoises, & FAQs on Red Ear Sliders: Sliders, Sliders 2, Red Eared Slider Identification, RES Behavior, RES Compatibility, RES Selection, RES Systems, RES Feeding, RES Disease, RES Disease/Health 2, RES Reproduction, & Other Reptiles, Amphibians

Related Articles: Red Eared Slider Care by Darrel Barton, So your turtle has the Flu? Recognising and treating respiratory infections in pet turtles by Neale Monks, Freshwater Livestock

Turtles: ID/Physical Attributes
(i.e., Species ID, Aging, Sexing)
Part 2

To: Part 1, Part 3

by Sue Garrett  


Is Eastern Red Bellied Turtle considered a Plymouth RB Turtle?

(Original heading:  Endangered or Not?)

I'm confused about the endangered species list. Is and EASTERN RED BELLIED turtle considered a PLYMOUTH RED BELLIED TURTLE? because the Plymouth ribs on the endangered list and is a sub species of the eastern rb. can you please set me straight I'm confused.
>> This has been in our inbox for a few days, so I think none of us are so sure. There is an easy way to find out. You can call your local USFW (US Fish and Wildlife Service) office, and they should be able to help you with your query. They have a website, but I am not sure what state you are in to find you the local number. Good Luck, Oliver



Genus:  Pseudemys


·     Carapace greenish to dark brown or black with yellowish, orangish or reddish vertical markings along the sides

·     Plastron varies from orange to reddish

·     Head, neck and legs marked with yellow stripes

·     Adults average 10-15 in shell length

·     Females larger in size but males have longer claws, thicker tails and their cloaca is farther from shell




Deirochelys reticularia


·     Pear-shaped, olive to dark brown carapace with a net-like pattern

·     Plastron typically plain yellow

·     Broad yellow stripe down front of fore-legs

·     Unusually long striped neck but not as long as snake-neck

·     Adults average 4-10 in shell length

·     Females larger in size but males have longer claws, thicker tails and their cloaca is farther from shell


Is It a Chicken, or a Turtle? No! It's the Eastern Chicken Turtle
Hi I've just recently brought an eastern long neck turtle.  It's about 2 years old.  I was just wondering how much food and what food is the best to feed him.
< You probably are referring to an Eastern Chicken turtle. This is an aquatic turtle that does well on meal worms, earthworms, crickets, king worms, trout chow, fish and commercially available turtle food. A varied diet is best. Feed him once a day so that most of it is gone after a couple minutes. As the weather warms up then his metabolism will increase and he will need to be fed a little more and maybe a couple times a day.-Chuck> 



Graptemys geographica

·     Carapace is olive to olive brown with reticulate pattern of narrow yellow lines; most have a keel running down the middle

·     Plastron is pale yellow

·     Head, neck, legs and tail are olive brown patterned with thin lines

·     Head has elongate yellow blotch on each side of head just above ears

·     Adults average 4-11 in shell length

·     Females larger in size but males have longer claws, thicker tails and their cloaca is farther from shell

Darrel Barton Image


Keeping, Feeding, Sexing Map Turtles  3/28/07

Hi there. We have two Mississippi Map Turtles that we bought as hatchlings in November of last year (2006).  My first question relates to how much we should be feeding them.  We have two different types of pellets but haven't managed to get a definitive answer of roughly how many we should be feeding them so we have no idea if we are massively over/under feeding them.  At the moment we feed them every day and give them approx. 8 pellets each - they gobble these down in a few seconds which makes us think they need more but I'm sure I remember being told that they should only have a few each?  I'm very worried as I read somewhere that if you over-feed them, their shells can crack which we obviously don't want to risk happening.
The pot says to feed them as many as they will eat in five min.s but with our two that would be LOADS - is that right?!  We have tried them with other food as well as the pellets but they don't seem to be very interested - they will occasionally eat freeze dried shrimp but won't touch live river shrimp or most other things.
< Feed your turtles three to four times a week. Keep feeding them until their appetite starts to slow down indicating that they are getting full. Then remove all the uneaten food. When they are hungry again they will be very active and searching for food. this is a sign that they are hungry and can now be fed again. try the new foods after not feeding them for a few days. Hungry turtles will try anything. Hatchling turtle food is best with treats of washed earthworms and insects.>
My second question relates to the sex of the two turtles.  At what age should we be able to tell what sex they are?
< At about 4 inches you should be able to se some of the different sexual characteristics.>
I know the females will eventually be bigger but when would we notice a big difference between
them if they were different sexes?  One has always been larger than the other but we don't know if that is just "one of those things".  Also, please could you tell me any other signs that will enable us to tell them apart and at what age we should be able to notice them?
Many thanks. Adele Davis
<When two turtles are kept together one always seems to be dominant and get most of the food. This dominant turtle always seems to grow faster regardless of the sex. This can make determining of the sexes difficult for a while, but eventually the female will grow larger that the male.-Chuck>


What Kind of Turtle is it? 8/23/05
My friend just found a small turtle, but cannot find out what type it is.  It is either dark green or black with yellow-green stripes all over its body and shell. Also it has a flat yellow-orange stomach. It has three triangular bumps on its shell. It has a tail and webbed feet with claws. If you know what it is,  please tell me what it eats. Also, the place where she found it is under  construction. Where would you suggest she release it?
< Sounds like you have a map turtle. They are an aquatic species that live on invertebrates, fish, plants and just about anything else. It could be released in a stream , river or creek away from human habitations.-Chuck>



Genus:  Chelodina

·     Long neck is distinctive feature, in some cases as long as carapace; bends sideways to tuck in its head

·     Carapace flattened, broad, brown with black-edged scutes

·     Plastron is cream colored with distinctive black lines/seams

·     Adults get up to 10 average shell length

·     Females larger in size but males have longer claws, thicker tails and their cloaca is farther from shell


Aging and Sexing Side Neck Turtles

(Original heading:  Keeping and Breeding Sideneck Turtles)

Hi there. I tried finding an answer for this on the other questioners' queries, but their answers either weren't specific enough or didn't exist. I am the proud owner of an African Side Neck turtle, named Elijah, whom
I've hesitantly labeled a male. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure of my turtle's gender or age. When I bought him he was in a tank at Petco with other ASN's and some RES's. However, I was not informed of his age or gender by the shopkeeper. Is sexing in ASN's similar to sexing in RES? With long claws and long thin tails meaning it's a male (I read that that only applies after five years old)? Or does that not apply?
< In general male turtles tend to be smaller than females of the same age and some species do have longer front claws. Look at the belly of the turtle. Males usually have and indented belly area to mount the female during mating. Females usually have a very flat belly area.>
And how might I tell my turtle's age by looking at him? He's about six and a half inches long, if that helps.
< Very difficult to determine an exact age.>
I'm asking all this, because I'm intending to breed him/her when he/she reaches sexual maturity, so perhaps you might be able to tell me when that might be for this breed, as well. Thanks a bunch! Stephanie
< Breeding herps is usually not too easy to do. I would recommend that you go to Kingsnake.com and get in contact with some serious turtle and tortoise clubs to see if you really want to get into this area.-Chuck>



Podocnemis unifilis


·     A type of side-necked turtle

·     Brown or black oval carapace

·     Yellow spots on sides of its head

·     Adults can get up to 17+ inches

·     Females larger in size but males have longer claws, thicker tails and their cloaca is farther from shell






Genus:  Chelydra

Shown on right:  Common Snapping Turtle

·     Tan to dark brown or black colored serrated carapace with row of spikes running down the midline

·     Plastrons very small leaving much of extremities exposed

·     Yellowish color neck, legs and tail; head darker in color

·     Hooked beak, long, strong tail with a row of ridges; heavy claws

·     Shells of adults average 7-31+ inches long

·     Adults can weigh up to 249 lbs; males larger than females


A common snapper; not an alligator turtle 9/30/09

      (Original heading:  Care of a 2 in. alligator snapping turtle 9/30/09)

<Hiya - Darrel here>
My granddaughter found a small black turtle with a beak and spiny back on September 26 in the middle of a barrier beach of Smith Point County Park on Fire Island, Suffolk County New York. My husband had spotted a similar turtle a few days earlier in the middle of the camp ground road and he moved it to the marshy area on the bayside of the barrier beach. We feel we rescued it but want to know what to do now!
<That would be a long way out of the range of an alligator snapping turtle, but within the normal range of a common snaper, Barbara. Alligator snappers are common only to the drainage basin around the Mississippi river. Assuming there's no chance that it's an escaped pet or even a sea turtle (Sea turtles have flippers and no claws)?? What I'd really like at this point is a couple of photos, even if just from a phone camera. Face, side and from front & above would help clear up a number of questions>
We have it in a clear plastic container with wet beach sand, a clump of wet kelp and a sea sponge and a clam shell to provide habitat and a receptacle for fresh water and food.
<None of those would be common environment of either snapping turtle>
We offered bits of cooked chicken ,chopped meat and lettuce at different times without much interest.
<Based on it's environment it probably is in no mood, maybe even no condition to eat>
It has been active at times, climbing to the top of the sponge but is mostly burrowed into a thin layer of sand under the kelp. Aside from removing the old food and 'poop' and occasionally peeking under things to assure that it is alive we haven't disturbed it much. Now the question: is it keepable as a pet for an 8 year old under supervision, or should we release it and where?
<Well whether or not it's keepable is dependent on a great number of question unanswered. Snapping turtles are notorious for biting hard and having short tempers, so they don't make a good lap pet. But with that said, even a Red Eared Slider can inflict a nasty bite if handled incorrectly -- so really it all depends on the level of maturity of the 8 year old. Turtles are good pets to house, care for and observe, but not to play with.>
<As far as the other thing ... NO!!! NO!!! We never EVER release any animal into the wild, even when it's with our best intentions.
Territories, sub species, communicable diseases ... just a few of a hundred reasons. If he survived at all, he'd possibly contaminate others, so we never ever release into the wild.>
<Once we find out what it is -- send pics!!! -- we'll decide what to do.
In the mean time, the link below will give you some basic information.>
<All snapping turtles are more aquatic than sliders. While they do it less often, they DO haul out & bask and still need a warm dry place to soak up some UV rays ... so for the purpose of the time being only, read the enclosed link and set up a basic environment to specifications. Meanwhile send pics and we'll go from there>
Any help or advise you can give would be most appreciated!
Sincerely Grandma
< http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RESCareBarton.htm>


Re: care of a 2 in. alligator snapping turtle 9/30/09
Hi Barbara,
Yes, what you have there is the Common Snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina. They make interesting pets but frankly they are a bit dangerous. The rules for keeping a snapping turtle are that you never, ever, ever ... for any reason .... put anything you care about anywhere near the front half of that animal. They're not actually mean ... but they have a very limited tolerance for anything moving around in front of their face before they'll strike out at it -- and once they grab a solid hold, they have the ability to hang on for very long periods.
A 20 gallon aquarium (or similar container) with shallow water (no deeper than 4 inches) and a small place to haul out and dry off under a basking light is all that is required initially. If it's not an actual aquarium, make sure the sides are high enough that it can't climb. Feeding is simple -- Reptomin food sticks or Koi Pellets from the local pet store (same ingredients, just cheaper) will provide a fully balanced diet.
They're interesting, low maintenance pets but on the other hand, they're very hardy animals that, with even minimal care, can grow to an extremely dangerous size in just a few years. So my advice on keeping it? ...
maybe .. maybe not. But if you decide not, inquire around your city for a turtle and tortoise club to find someone with the desire and experience and please just don't release it.
Best wishes



what kind of turtle and how old is it 6/27/09
I know the attached is not a snapping turtle but I have never seen anything this big that was not, what is it and how old.
<It's a Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) generally have a row of spikes along the midline of the shell running along the spine, whereas Common Snapping Turtles do not. As for age, I have no idea. Captive specimens routinely live well over 20 years, and the record is around twice that. Given the apparent size of this specimen, it is probably going to be well over ten years old.>
found in the Metro North Parking lot, in June, 2009 land put on side of road and let go. /Westchester County, NY
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: what kind of turtle and how old is it 6/27/09
I would never have guessed a snapping turtle. Thank you for your very prompt reply. John H Vargo, Publisher, Boatingonthehudson.com and boating on the Hudson & beyond mag.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>




Genus:  Kinosternon

Shown on right:  Common Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)


·     Carapace is generally pattern-less and varies from yellowish brown to olive or black.  Its smooth, unserrated and drops abruptly behind.

·     Plastron color ranges from yellow to brown.

·     Head is usually brown with some yellow mottling; sometimes there are two light lines on each side of head and neck.

·     Skin is brown to olive or grayish and may exhibit some markings

·     Shell length of most adults averages 5; some species up to 9


Turtle identification request - 6/20/08
Dear Crew,
<Hiya Colin, Darrel here today>
Any info you can provide is appreciated.............I've been through many websites and can't seem to find a good match. he was found in a lake in central Illinois. he has a distinct ridge down the center of his shell (does this rule out mud turtle?) has small yellow dot-like marks around the 'skirt' of his shell edge that you can see from the top bottom of shell has yellow splotch towards center, darker perimeter yellow line markings on his neck and limbs, subtle
<Your pictures are large and well lighted, but focus is a bit of an issue. It might be better if you pulled back a bit and allowed the autofocus a bit more room to work ... but with that said it looks like the common mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) to me. Take a look at this link, down near the bottom is a 2 yr old Mud Turtle (retracted, sorry to say) but compare this to yours and see if we nailed it>

turtle identification request - 6/21/08
Any info you can provide is appreciated.............I've been through many websites and can't seem to find a good match.
he was found in a lake in central Illinois he has a distinct ridge down the center of his shell (does this rule out mud turtle?)
<Mmm, no... this looks like a Kinosternon subrubrum to me...>
has small yellow dot-like marks around the 'skirt' of his shell edge that you can see from the top bottom of shell has yellow splotch towards center, darker perimeter yellow line markings on his neck and limbs, subtle
<Is one of these: http://www.chicagoherp.org/herps/species.htm#turtles
Bob Fenner>





Genus:  Sternotherus

Shown on right:  Common Musk Turtle

·     Named because of ability to release smelly musk from two glands on each side of its body

·     Carapace color ranges from drab olive to grey-brown to blackish

·     Unmarked plastron ranges in color from yellow to brown

·     Skin is gray to black; head has pair of yellow or white stripes

·     Most adults range in size from 3-4; some species up to 6



MATA MATA TURTLE (Photo: DFW Aquarium)

Chelus Fimbriatus


·     Related to side-necked turtles but with some different attributes

·     Most striking features are triangular shaped head, and a nose with a tube extension that allows them to breathe underwater

·     Carapace is usually black or brown with some orange color; scutes can appear rough; three keels run down the length of it

·     Plastron ranges in color from a light yellow to a deeper brown shade

·     Skin varies from an orange-brown to a grey-brown tone

·     Adult shell length can get up to 18 long




Family:  Trionychidae

·     Many genera/species in family; all different in terms of identification and care

·     Common physical attribute they share is a carapace that lacks scutes and is leathery and pliable, more like thickened skin

·     Carapace colors vary from pale to dark brown, gray or olive-yellowish; tends to match the sand or mud color where its from

·     Plastron color is very light, either white, cream or yellowish

·     Webbed feet, long necks and piggish-like nose they use as a snorkel

·     Adult size ranges dramatically depending on species from several inches to several feet; females larger than males




Carettochelys insculpta

·     Distinctive from, but related to, the soft shelled family

·     Most aquatic of all non-marine turtles with paddle-like forelimbs/flippers

·     Carapace is usually grey or olive in color with a leathery texture; has a domed bony carapace instead of flat plate like other softshells

·     Plastron color is very light, either white, cream or yellowish, and is solid not soft like other softshells

·     Has a blunt pig-like snout for a nose

·     Carapace length can grow upwards of 22 inches


Pig Nosed River Turtle characteristics  4/16/07

(Original heading:  Pig Nosed River Turtle Questions, sys.   4/16/07)

Hello guys, I hope you can bear with me and try to answer my questions, I am really sorry I have so many questions and taking up your precious time. Really appreciate your help and time and efforts! Thank you in advance!
My pig nose turtle has been really restless for the past month, swimming from one end to the other in the tank and flapping water furiously but stopped once I go over or pat it on its head. Last time it (I am still not sure of its gender, I know a long tail and long nails at front flippers should indicate a he but I am not sure how long exactly is considered long enough.) used to calm down after I fed it but food doesnt work anymore so I really dont know what my turtle is asking for now. I have seen similar questions posted in the forum but the replies did not directly explain this behaviour. I have varied the diet but it didnt help. I have kept the turtle for years and this hasnt happened before. Theres no hiding place for my turtle and I will try to get one because its difficult to find a cave-like structure big and light enough for the glass tank. My turtle is about 22cm from head to tail and 17cm in width.. Do you know how old it is?.
< They grow very slowly and no literature is available on the growth rate of this turtle.>
When I bought it, I believed it was just a hatchling, no bigger than about 10cm from head to tail.
And is it also 80F for the water temperature for Pignose turtle?
< That sounds like it is in the range for this species.>
Can you tell me how many Celsius degree is 80F?
<Around 27 C.>
Should the basking area be higher in temperature?
< Generally the basking areas are always higher so the animal can increase its body temp to fight disease and to aid in digestion.>
And aside from the basking light, do I also need another lamp for the tank?
< You need heat and another lamp to provide the proper lighting spectrum for vitamin development.>
Are these two kinds of lamps different?
< Usually yes although some lamps can provide both heat and some UV radiation.>
And should I keep the lights on during the day and off at night?
< Yes.>
I also dont have a basking area for it, because the water level of the tank is about three quarter full and I have no idea how to build a basking area so high above the water. If I keep the water level lower, will it deprive my turtle in terms of swimming space?
< Yes try and build a shelf on which the turtle can get out on. ZooMed makes a Turtle Dock for just such a situation but it is not big enough for a turtle like yours.>
If I put it out in a tub for basking, is half an hour enough?
< Only the turtle itself knows how long it needs to bask.>
It doesnt really get a lot of direct sunlight because I stay in a flat and have no garden or porches or anything in kind.
Do I need to add a bit of water in the tub?
< This is a very aquatic turtle that in the wild would spend hours swimming around in a big river. If you are going to confine it to a tube then I would still and try to provide as much swimming are as possible.>
So sorry I have so many questions. I hope you can answer to them all. So sorry to take up so much of your time and efforts, really appreciate any help given!.. Thank you soo soo much!
Lost and frantic owner, Jaz Singapore
< This is a very rare turtle and I believe on some CITES lists too. Very scarce and very expensive in the U.S. The cool thing about these turtles is they look and act like ocean sea turtles but are found in fresh water instead. They get pretty big for a pet turtle. The shell can get up to almost 20 inches and they can weigh up to 35 lbs. There is very little known about these turtles and literature is scarce. Since they get soo big and are very aquatic I would try and give them as much swimming space as possible. They may come out to bask occasionally but I don't think they will use a basking spot very often. Some people in the US that are fortunate enough to have this turtle have told me that they are totally aquatic and don't require a basking spot. But I would still provide UVB and UVA over the basking site to cover my bases. The basking site should still be around 85 to 90 F. The water temp should be around 80 F. The diet may need to be modified for minerals that it may not be getting. Try adding a few vitamins to the food to see if that helps settle him down.-Chuck>

To: Part 1, Part 3

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