Spotted Turtle Clemmys guttata

Adult from LaGrange County

Identification

The Spotted Turtle is a small, predominately black turtle. The carapace is smooth and marked with small yellow spots, however, never young or very old specimens may lack these spots. Yellow and orange spots are present on the head, neck, and limbs. The hinge-less plastron is yellow to orange with each scute marked with a dark blotch. In older specimens, the plastron may be entirely dark colored. The head of juveniles is spotted and the vertebral and costal scutes are each marked with a single spot. Females are larger than males on average. Males have a tan chin, brown eyes, a concave plastron, and a longer pre-anal length with the vent posterior to the rim of the carapace. Females have a yellow chin, orange eyes, a flat to convex plastron, and a shorter pre-anal length with the vent anterior to the rim of the carapace.

Adult from Michigan
Ventral view of adult from LaGrange County

While the Blanding’s Turtle also has yellow spots, it has a hinged plastron (while the Spotted Turtle is hinge-less).

Ecology and Conservation

Spotted Turtles use a wide variety of wetland types. They are most frequently encountered in shallow, well-vegetated wetlands with soft substrates such as marshes, wet pastures, bogs, fens, swamps, Carolina bays, woodland streams, and drainage ditches. Spotted Turtles are active during daylight hours and spend the nights in animal burrows, mud bottoms, or under vegetation. Algae, aquatic grasses, insects, crustaceans, snails, tadpoles, and carrion are all common food items. While the Spotted Turtle is mostly aquatic, they do travel frequently across land. Females have been documented to travel up to 50 meters from water in search of a nest site. Researchers believe Spotted Turtles reach sexual maturity between 7 to 10 years. They have been documented to live up to 30 years in the wild.

Fen from Carroll County
Fen from LaGrange County

In the Midwest, the Spotted Turtle is a species of concern in all states in which it is found. In Illinois and Indiana, they are listed as State Endangered. The Spotted Turtle has been collected for the pet trade industry. Also, as is the case with many turtle species, road kills are a contributing factor to population declines. The survival of this species relies on the conservation and management of suitable habitat, particularly shallow wetland complexes, throughout its range.

Distribution

The Spotted Turtle is found along the eastern coastal states from southern Maine to northern Florida, and in the Great Lakes region from western New York and western Pennsylvania through parts of Ohio, Indiana, Ontario, Illinois, and Michigan.

Taxonomy

There are no currently recognized subspecies of the Spotted Turtle.

Literature Cited

Conant, R. and J. T . Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY.

Ernst, C. H. and J. E. Lovich. 2009. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Second Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Minton, S. A. Jr. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis, IN.

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
Photographs