Chrysemys picta (painted turtle) (Young: Plate 4*; adult: Plate 7; Text pp ) Despite maps, this turtle is found only along and to the NW of the Sandhills. This is an old species, dating from Late Miocene. C. picta prefers still water, soft bottom, basking sites, & aquatic vegetation. Operating temperature is low, perhaps 22 o C, and at low temps, non-pulmonary gas exchange is significant: –25 o C: lactate high in 2 days under water –5 o C: lactate high in 2 weeks under water Migration is known in some populations. Late summer follicular & sperm development; spring courtship, summer nesting, c. 6 eggs, fall hatching. Minimum size at maturity = f(latitude). Ernst et al. (1994) review painted turtle physiology in excruciating detail. *Plate-references are to Conant & Collins.
Clemys guttata (spotted turtle) (Young: Plate 3; Adult: Plate 5; Text: p. 158) Coastal Plain, into sandhills. Swamps, ponds, braided streams (shallow water). Short activity cycle concentrated in spring!!! Typical summer sperm & egg production; courtship in early spring, egg-laying (average 4-5 eggs) in late spring, hatching in late summer. Wild survival documented to > 30 years. Omnivorous. State protected species.
Clemys muhlenbergii (bog turtle; endangered species) (Adult: Plate 5; Text: p. 159) Very rare, Oconee-Pickens bog distribution. Ephemeral habitat formerly shifted because of plant- succession in mountain bogs. Smallest turtle in USA; adult length often < 10cm. Most surface activity occurs in spring; may aestivate in summer. Typical patterns of egg and sperm development; mating in early spring, laying (c. 3 eggs) in late spring. Incubation c days; young emerge in late summer. Omnivorous, but mostly insects.
Deirochelys reticularia (chicken turtle) (Young: Plate 4; Adult: Plate 7; Text: p. 187) Sandhills and Coastal Plain. Adults about 10-15cm. Still water (ponds, ditches, etc.); often moves on land. (Adapted to movement across ephemeral wetlands.) Females begin laying at c. 3 years of age. Spring or fall oviposition (winter in warm climates—what does this suggest?—in South Carolina occasional retention of shelled eggs). Fall embryos can enter diapause. Early summer hatch. Egg size increases with female size, up to point; then clutch size increases. This is not the typical emydid pattern. An implosion feeder with ontogenetic changes in food habits typical of emydids. Seen from above, shell has characteristic pear-like shape.
Malaclemys terrapin (diamondback terrapin) (Young: Plate 4; Adult: Plate 5; Text: p. 165) Restricted to coastal margins (salt marshes, tidal creeks, etc., where salinity is ppt; rainwater is important, and drinking =f[salinity]). Hunts & basks by day; probably digs in at night. Males mature by 4 yrs, females (larger) by about 8; adults about 15-20cm. Females can store sperm. Nest in summer on landward dune faces. Southern females produce fewer, larger, faster-hatching eggs (lottery theory? depredation?). DBT’s (especially females) are good at crunching snails & clams.
Pseudemys concinna (river cooter) (Adult: Plate 8; Text: p. 178) Statewide except mountains, but much less common in Coastal Plain (follows streams…). About 25-30cm. Prefers rivers with slow current, abundant vegetation, rocky bottoms, and basking logs (little aquatic basking). Clutches of about 20 eggs are laid in early summer (rarely multiple clutches); hatch in late summer. This highly aquatic, common turtle is not well known. Most look darker than pictures. Long dives (2-3hrs) are possible. Juvenile
Pseudemys floridana (cooter) (Adult: Plate 8; Text: p. 181) Restricted to the Coastal Plain, this cooter likes wide rivers, slow current, soft bottom, and abundant vegetation. About 25-35cm. Cooters are gregarious snag- baskers in cool weather and aquatic baskers in warm weather. Usually nests in spring (winter in Florida). Multiple clutches (of about 20 eggs) are common. Hatching at c days; Aiken County hatchlings often overwinter in nest. For this species costs and benefits of thermoregulation are apparently high! ID: Spots on bridge are hollow. Juvenile
With good conditions, “boxies” mature at 5-10 yrs; long-lived. About 12-15cm. Courtship spring to fall; males usually mate with females that share overlapping ranges. (The mating position is weird…) Females can store sperm for > 1 year. 4-5 eggs/clutch, usually 2 (up to 4) clutches/year day incubation; females produced at above 28.5 o C. Boxies like it hot and humid but can survive freezing for 72hr. Like many other turtles, boxies fight infection by means of “behavioral fever” of up to 4 o C. Omnivorous; like mushrooms. Terrapene carolina (box turtle) (Young: Plate 3; Adult: Plate 5; Text: p. 160)
Trachemys scripta (yellowbelly slider) (Young: Plate 4; Adult: Plate 7; Text: p. 176) Statewide (except mountains); prefers quiet waters with soft bottoms, abundant vegetation, and basking snags. May move substantial distances overland cm. Probably like many other turtles, T. scripta heats faster than it cools. Time to maturity varies among and within populations. Summer gametogenesis, spring breeding; about 6 eggs are laid in late spring– and more clutches may follow. Clutch size (but not egg width) is a function of female size. Hatching is often in late summer, but young may over-winter in the nest.
Gopherus polyphemus (gopher tortoise) (Adult: Plate 2; Text: p. 188) Found in Jasper & Hampton Counties, plus newly discovered population in Aiken County. About 15-35cm. This basically tropical animal can live in Temperate Zone because it digs burrows (up to 2m deep, 6m long), in which temperature is constant. Many other animals (invertebrates & vertebrates) share this micro-habitat. Very slow to mature, very low repro rate; adults very long- lived: conservation problems…. yearling adult
Chelydra serpentina (snapper) (Young: Plate 3; Adult: Plate 9; Text: p. 146) Found in any fresh water; prefers still water with soft bottom. About 20-25cm. A highly-aquatic, seldom-basking bottom-walker– that can move overland. Mating occurs April-November; females may store sperm; laying typically occurs in late spring. Typical clutch size is eggs.
Trionyx (Apalone) ferox (Florida softshell) (Note: Adult animals lose the distinctive, blotched carapace-pattern.) (Young: Plate 4; Adult: Plate 10; Text: p. 199) This species is confined to the southern tip of the South Carolina “pie.” Males about 15-30cm; females about 30-70cm. It prefers sandy bottoms of still waters but will live almost anywhere. It can exchange gases through pharynx, cloaca, and skin. Multiple clutches; number of eggs depends on female size; c. 2 months’ development; chromosomal gender determination. Juvenile
Trionyx (Apalone) spiniferus (spiny softshell) (Young: Plate 4; Adult: Plate 10; Text: p. 195) Found statewide, mostly in well-oxygenated rivers with soft bottoms, sandbars, and aquatic vegetation. Males 12-25cm; females 20-45cm. Good at through-the-skin gas exchange (skin and shell are so porous that the animal can dehydrate); also good at regulating heating and cooling rates behaviorally. Can store sperm; usually double-clutch. Thought to be very long- lived.
Kinosternon baurii & subrubrum (mud turtles) (Adult: Plate 2; Text: pp. 153 & 155) Former has weird disjunct range in Coastal Plain; latter occurs everywhere except mountains. About 7-10cm. Both like quiet waters; former prefers slow-moving & deeper. Predators on small stuff. K. bauri K. subrubrum
Sternotherus odoratus (musk turtle) (Adult: Plate 2; Text: p. 150) Found statewide, typically in slow water with soft bottom. About 5-12cm. Moves on land but dehydrates rapidly. Time to maturity depends on food and latitude. Mating often occurs in fall, and sperm may be stored. Multiple small clutches are the rule. Eat any animal that’s small– but mostly invertebrates.
Caretta caretta (loggerhead) Omnivorous but prefers mollusks. About cm; kg females spend most of year at sea. Migration to nesting beaches can be > 2500km (often less; left). Night landfall on natal beach; selects nest site. Lays c cm eggs in nest; probably nests 3-4 times in year– and then skips 1-3 years. After 2 months eggs hatch; young head to sea. Depredation on nests and hatchlings is very heavy. Young probably float in Sargasso. (Adult: Plate 9; Text: p. 192)
Chelonia mydas (green turtle) (Adult: Plate 9; Text: p. 191) Economically this is the most valuable sea turtle. At about cm, it’s often a bit larger than loggerheads (though head of green turtle is smaller). This is the only sea turtle that feeds largely on plant material. Nesting on South Carolina beaches is very rare. Cross open ocean but usually feed in shallow water. Female age at maturity may be very old (>35 years).
Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback) (Adult: Plate 9; Text: p. 193) Shell is composed of many tiny bones embedded in the thick skin. (The biggest such bones form 7 longitudinal ridges.) About cm (largest turtle; to 500kg). Mating probably takes place during migration from temperate to tropical waters. Multiple clutches (often 6 or more) of about eggs are produced. “Graze” on jellyfish. Thermal biology is convergent with that of mammals.