Ornate Box Turtle
Excerpted from: Animal Diversity
||Shell, tail, head, and limbs are mostly dark brown or black in color. They have concentric rings
on their shells as well as elaborate thick, yellow lines that surround their scutes.
||1 to 6 eggs
||Young turtlestend to eat a greater percentage of insects than adults. The most common foods
include earthworms, grasshoppers, beetles, slugs, fruits, and plants.
The bulk of this species' shell, tail, head, and limbs are mostly dark brown or black
in color. They have concentric rings on their shells that are indicative of their age,
as well as elaborate thick, yellow lines that surround their scutes. All adults have
yellow spots on their heads. Additionally, sexual dichromatism exists
in this species. Bright red eyes and green heads are characteristic of males, with
brighter colors perhaps improving reproductive success. A female's eyes and
head are typically brown or black.
On average, adults weigh between 0.5 to 1 pound. The carapace averages 5 inches
in length for adults. Although still roughly dome-shaped, Ornate Box Turtles are
known for having relatively convex carapaces. The plastron averages 5 inches long
for females and 4.5 inches long for males. Differences in the average shell size
between females and males contibutes to the fact that females tend
to be slightly larger than males.
Ornate Box Turtles are known to live between 30 to 37 years in the wild, with most living
for about 32 years. The oldest known wild Ornate Box Turtle was over 40 years old.
Ornate Box Turtles are mobile, terrestrial turtles. Most of their lives, however, are actually
spent underground in burrows to escape temperature extremes in an attempt to maintain
thermal stability. Ideal body temperatures for this species lie between 70-78° F Because
Ornate Box Turtles are one of the only terrestrial turtle species, they do not have water to
rely on as an effective way to reduce their body temperatures therefore, they cannot
withstand extreme temperatures. Instead, they retreat underground and hibernate during
Even throughout their active seasons, much of their time is spent inside of daily
forms that they create. During summer rain showers this species may emerge from the
ground to find food. They arise to seek areas of sunlight to raise their body temperatures,
as well as to dry out their body parts and rid themselves of parasites as an adaptive technique.
Social behavior is negligible in this species, as they tend to interact only during reproductive
Little is known about the communication and perception of the Ornate Box Turtle. They
spend minimal time in social interactions with one another, likely because most of their
time is spent underground in burrows. Typically they are only seen interacting with one
another during mating season. Males can be aggressive and can often be found biting
or bumping shells with one another, but this aggression only seems to occur exclusively
between two males.
The Ornate Box Turtle is an omnivore, and changes eating habits based upon availability
of food. Young Ornate Box Turtles tend to eat a greater percentage of insects than adults.
The most common foods that Ornate Box Turtles feed on include earthworms, grasshoppers,
beetles, slugs, fruits, and plants. Plants and fruits are generally eaten half as often as animal
food types. Of the available plants, the most commonly consumed are mulberries and dandelion
flowers. They have also been recorded feeding on small fish, carrion, and feces.
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