Turtles of Louisiana
Any permanent body of fresh water, large or small, is a potential home for a Snapper: it even enters brackish water. Snappers rarely bask as most other turtles do. Underwater they are usually inoffensive, pulling in thier heads when stepped upon. They often bury themselves in mud in shallow water with only eyes showing. On land they may strike repeatedly: a favorite maneuver is to stand with hind quaters elevated and jaws agape and then lung foward. Small and medium-sized specimens may be carried by thier tails. Keep plastron side toward your leg. Omivorous-- Food includes various small aquatic invertebrates, fishes, reptiles, birds, mammals, carrion, and a surprisingly large amounts of vegetation.
Snapping Turtle: Chelydra serpentina
Alligator Snapping Turtle; Macroclemys temmincki
This gigantic fresh-water turtle, our largest and one one the largest in the world, often lies at the bottom of lake and river with mouth wide open. A curious pink process on the floor of the mouth resembles a worm, wriggles like one, and serves as a lure for fish.
Stinkpot; Sternothaerus odoratus
Extraordinarily abundant in many bodies of water, but not often observed except in shallow, clear water lakes, ponds, and rivers. In these it may be seen leisurely patrolling the bottom in search of food, its shell looking like a rounded stone, and the illusion being heightened by the green algae that grow on many specimens. Still waters are preferred.
Razor-Backed Musk Turtle; Sternothacrus carinalus
A turtle of the streams and great river swamps of the mid south. Carapace often shows signs of disease in that margins of shell are irregular where bone and overlying tissue have crumbled away. Basks much more frequently than other Musk Turtles.
Family Chelydridae
Snapping Turtles : Subfamily Chelydrinae
Musk and Mud Turtles: Subfamily Kinosterninae
Mississippi Mud Turtle; Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis
A common turtle of bayous, lagoons, and great swamps of the lower Mississippi Valley
Family Testudinidae
Box and Water Turtles: Subfamily Emydinae
Box Turtles: Genus Terrapene
Gulf Coast Box Turtle; Terrapene carolina major
Although essentially terrestrial, these turtles sometimes soak themselves by the hour (or day) in mud or water. During hot, dry weather they burrow beneath logs or rotting vegitation, but sharp summer showers usually bring them out of hiding, often in numbers.
By: Bill Diaz  
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Snakes of Louisiana
Three-Toed Box Turtle; Terrapene carolina triunguis
Don't depend entirely on the toes---it sometimes has 4! A marked tendency for pattern to be replaced (sometimes completely) by plain olive- or horned-colored areas: plastron often plain yellow or horn colored. Orange or yellow spots usually conspicuous on both head and forelimbs.
Map Turtles and Sawbacks: Genus Graptemys
Mississippi Map Turtle; Graptemys kohni
Ouachta Map Turtle; Graptemys pseudogeographica ouachlensis
Sabine Map Turtle; Graptemys pseudogeographica sabinensis
Ringed Sawback Turtle; Graptemys oculifera
Map turtles are lake and river turtles. They are shy, quick to plunge from thier basking places, and usually difficult to capture. Among them are some of our most beautifully marked and grotesquely adorned turtles. All have dorsal keels; in several there are projections upward from the keel (hence the name Sawbacks) Hatching size varies from 1-1/8" to 1-1/2". In the young, the patterns are brightest and the spines best developed; males tend to retain most of the juvenile characteristics; females lose many of them and are often smuged with dark pigment.  The jaws, scissor-like in action, are useful in dismembering insects, which, with mollusks, constitute the principal food of Sawbacks.
Diamondback Terrapins; Genus Malaclemys
Mississippi Diamondback terrapin; Malaclemys terrapin pileata
Terrapins are reptiles of the coastal marshes, rarely straying from salt or brackish water. thier food includes fish, crustaceans, mullusks and insects.
  Concentric grooves and ridges or concentric dark and light markings on each of the large
scutes of the carapace are characteristic. So are the flecked or spotted heads and legs. The carapace has a central keel, low and inconspicuous in the Atlantic races, but prominent and often knobbed in the subspecies along the Gulf of Mexico. Individual variation is great, and some forms are confusingly alike; therefore it is well to lean heavily on geography (the place where the turtle is seen or collected) in making identifications.
Large fresh wate turtles with short tempers and long tails; ranging collectively from Canada to South America
  These turtles have a musky secretion exuded at the time of capture from two glandular openings on each side of the body. These are situated where the skin meets the underside of the carapace. "Bottom crawlers" would be a good way to descibe these reptiles. They are aquatic, the Musk Turtles especially, and rarely leave the water except during rains or in the nesting season. They bask in the open occasionally, but are more likely to "take the sun" in shallow water with only part of the shell exposed above the surface. Try to catch them if you can, for identification is difficult without flipping them over for a look at the plastron. Use a net or hold the shell far back--- there jaws are strong, necks long, and many are very short tempered.
   The musk tuertles  have relativly small
plastrons that offer little protection for legs. The anterior lobe is movable on a transverse hinge situated between the 2nd and 3rd pairs of plastral scutes, but the hinge is usually not apparent to the eye. It may be demonstrated, however by moving the front tip of the plastron up and down.
   The Mud turtles have much larger
plastrons equipped with two readily discernible transverse hinges.( The hinges are not developed in the young of either genus) The pectoral scutes are triangular in shape.
   The two genera share the following characteristics: there are barbels (downward fleshy projections) on the chin and/or neck. The
marginal scutes, including the nuchal, are almost always 23 in number. Most other turtles have 25. At hatching the young vary from about 3/4" to 1" in carapace length. These turtles are often mistaken for young Snappers, but the Snapping Turtle has a long tail with saw-toothed projections on top. Musk and Mud turtles have short tails, but these are useful in distinguishing sexes. Males have longer, stouter tails; in females the tails may be little more than nubbins. Males also have 2 rough patches of skin on the hind leg; the patches touch each other when the knee is flexed.
These are the "dry land turtles" that close thier shell tightly when danger threatens. Thier hallmark is a broad hinge across the plastron, providing movable lobes both fore and aft; these fit so neatly against the upper shell that in many individuals not even a knife blade may be inserted. With such close fitting-fitting armor, Box turtles are well adapted for a terrestial life, even though they are much more closely related to some of the water turtles than to the Gopher Tortoises they superficially resemble. The upper jaw ends in a down turned beak. In hatchlings (average 1-1/8" to 1-1/4") the hinge is not functional.The young have a median dorsal ridge, evedences of which may persist in adults. Box turtles, strictly North American, range widely over the eastern and central United States and through Mexico.
  As adults, Box Turtles are kept more frequently as pets than any ther turtles. Most adapt themselves readily to captivity, requiring only a back yard or a box of dirt for digging and a shallow pan of water for an occasional soaking. They are omnivorous, and are fond of fruits, berries, and raw hamburger. Many people feed them table scraps. Ages of 30 and 40 years are common, and a few may reach the century mark.
Painted Turtles; Genus Chrysemys
These are readily identifiable by thier smooth, unkeeled shells and attractive patterns. They live chiefly where the water is shallow, the aquatic vegetation profuse, and the bottom soft and muddy, in ponds, marshes, ditches, edges of lakes, backwaters of streams. Thier food in nature consists largley of aquatic vegetation, insects, crawfish, and small mollusks.
  The shell often becomes encrusted with red or brownish deposit (easily scraped away with thumbnail or knife) that may hide the true coloration. Females average larger than thier mates. Fully adult males have very long nails on thier forefeet. Hatchlings are usually an inch or less in shell length; thier
carapaces are keeled.
Southern painted Turtle; Chrysemys picta dorsalis
Cooters and Sliders: Genus Pseudemys
These include most of the big basking turtles, an abundant group in ponds and streams. They are brown or olive in general appearance with streaks, whorls, or circles of brown or black on a lighter ground color. The carapace of adults is usually wrinkled with numerous, chiefly longitudinal furrows, and its rear margin is saw toothed. The head stripes are usually yellowish. Only a few have field marks recognizable at a distance. Even in hand they are difficult to identify, particularly since hybridization between species is of rather frequent occurrence.
  Adult males have greatly elongated nails on there forelimbs, and there shells are rather flat compared with the well-arched shells of females. All of these turtles are largely vegetarian. Captives should be provided with natural aquatic plants or, in their absense, with lettuce, carrot tops, or other greens. Most of them will eat raw meat, fish, shellfish, worms, insects, etc.
Yellow Bellied Turtle; Pseudemys scripta scripta
One of the most ubiquitous turtles of the southeast. Utilizes a wide variety of habitats, including rivers, ditches, sloughs,lakes, and ponds.
Red-Eared Turtle; Pseudemys scripta elegans
Baby red-ears, commonest of all pet turtles, are sold in enormous numbers. This is a thoroughly aquatic species preferring quiet water with a muddy bottom and a profusion of vegitation. Basks on logs or other projections above water or in masses of floating plants, but seldom hauls out on bank.
Mobile Cooter; pseudemys concinna mobilensis
Missouri Slider; pseudemys floridana hoyi
Eastern Chicken Turtle; Deirochelys reticularia recticularia
An inhabitant of stillwater such as ponds, marshes, sloughs, and ditches. Frequently walks about on land.
Western Chicken Turtle; Deirochelys reticularia miaria
Diagram of Turtle Shell
Gopher Tortoises: Subfamily Testudininae
Gopher Tortoise; Gopherus polyphemus
An accomplished burrower, its tunnels sloping downward from surface and then usually leveling off underground. Excavations vary from 10 to 30 feet long, nd have a "bedroom" large enough to turn around in at the terminus. Many other animals seek shelter or live permanently in "gopher" burrows, these running the gamut from insects to burrowing owls, racoons, and possums.
  The tortoises emerge in good weather, usually  in the morning before the heat is too great, to forage upon grass, leaves, and such wild fruits as they can find.
Softshell Turtles: Family Trionychidae
These animated pancakes belie the traditional slowness of the turtle. They are powerful swimmers and they can run on land with startling speed and agility. The soft shell is leathery, bends freely at the sides and rear, and is completely devoid of scales and scutes. Vague outlines of the underlying bony structure often show through the skin of the carapace.
  All species are thoroughly aquatic. They may bask ashore, but only where they can slide or dash into the water in literally a split second. A frequent habit is to lie buried in mud or sand in shallow water with only the eyes and snout exposed and where, when the long neck is extended, the nostrils can reach the surface for a breath of air.
  Identification is hampered by changes associated with age and sex. Young softshells are about as well patterned as they will ever be. Males tend to retain the juvenile pattern and coloration, but the females, which grow very large in comparison with their mates, undergo marked changes, the original pattern being replaced and eventually obliterated completely by mottlings and blotches. Similar, but not such marked changes, may take place in old males. Males have much longer and stouter tails than females. They young of all our species average about 1-1/2" at hatching.
  Handle Softshells with caution. Thier sharp claws and mandibles deserve respect!
Smooth Softshell; Trionyx muticus
Essentially a river turtle, an inhabitant of streams ranging in size from creeks to the mighty Mississippi River. Occurs in lakes less frequently than the several members of the Spiny Softshell group, and often is missing where they are abundant, and vice versa.
Western Spiny Softshell; Trionyx spinifer hartwegi
Gulf Coast Softshell; Trionyx spinifer asper
Texas Softshell; Trionyx spinifer emoryi
This site was created on 7/24/03
Picture by David Schexnaydre
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