Red-Eared Slider Turtle

Trachemys scripta elegans

Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Emydiae
Other names: Common slider, pond slider, common terrapin

Brandywine Zoo Red Eared Slider Turtle
Ivan* - 0.1 H: 5/1/2008. Acq. 4/1/2009
Ivan came to us on from an unknown background. He may have been a pet or found and donated. *unfertilized eggs were laid in August 2014, indicating "Ivan" may, in fact, be an "Ivana".

Least Concern [1]

Geographic Region
They are found from the southern Great Lakes region east to West Virginia, west to Indiana and Illinois and south throughout most of the southeastern and south-central United States.

Temperate, freshwater rivers of Eastern North America. The red-eared slider originated from the area around the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, in warm climates in the southeastern corner of the United States

  • Size: up to 30cm/11", more commonly about 12-20cm [2]
  • Longevity: 20-30 years, with some individuals living up to 40 [2]
Physical Description
  • Red-eared slider gets its name from the broad reddish or orange stripe behind each eye, though some red-eared sliders do not have this streak.
  • Color in adults fades to a muted olive green color. Some older individuals (especially males) appear almost black with few visible markings.
Some dimorphism exists between males and females. Difficult to distinguish males from females until adult sizes.
  • Males: the shells of mature males are smaller than those of females when they reach maturity. Males have longer claws on their front feet than the females; this helps them to hold on to a female during mating and is used during courtship displays. The male's tail is thicker and longer. The male's plastron is slightly concave.
  • Females: the cloacal opening of the female is at or under the rear edge of the carapace, while the male's opening occurs beyond the edge of the carapace. The female's plastron is totally flat
Diet: Omnivore
  • Diet in the Wild: Young pond sliders tend to be more carnivorous than adults, eating about 70% animal matter and 30% plant matter. Adults eat 90% plant matter and 10% animal matter. Foods include aquatic insects, snails, tadpoles, crawfish, fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. They also eat plants like arrowhead, water lilies, hyacinths, and duck weed.
  • Diet in the Zoo: reptile salad (squash, sweet potato, fruit, greens), canned & dry dog food. Fed 3X's a week.
  • Diurnal, day active.
  • Almost entirely aquatic. Sliders enjoy basking on logs, rocks, or stumps near the water. This type of behavioral thermoregulation helps to maintain more consistent body temperatures.
  • They often are observed in large groups mainly because of their aggregation on limited numbers of basking sites. Sometimes you can see sliders stacked on top of each other three high.
  • The name "slider" refers to the quick retreat from their basking site into the water when they feel even the slightest bit threatened.
  • Sliders will sleep at night underwater, usually resting on the bottom or floating on the surface, using their inflated throat as a flotation aid.
  • Sliders become inactive at temperatures below 10°C. They will often brumate underwater or under banks and hollow stumps. Emergence occurs in early March to late April.
  • Oviparous, egg-laying
  • Male pond sliders have a unique courtship dance that they engage in anywhere between the months of March and July.
  • Most nesting occurs from May to July.
  • A female may have one to three clutches in a season, with second clutches laid in July or August. Females will often travel some distance to find a suitable nesting site. Nests are dug in the soil with the female's back feet. Four to 23 eggs are laid in a hole and then covered with the displaced soil.
  • It takes 2 to 2.5 months for young to hatch and they do so using their "egg tooth" (caruncle) which disappears soon after hatching. Hatching occurs between July and September. If hatching occurs in the late fall, the young may overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring.
Subspecies & Variation
The species Trachemys scripta contains three subspecies:
  • T.s. elegans (red-eared slider): Alabama to extreme northeastern Mexico, up to Cuatro Cienegas.
  • T.s. scripta (yellow-bellied slider): Atlantic drainages from southern Virginia to northern Florida.
  • T.s. troostii (Cumberland slider): Southwestern Virginia to northeastern Alabama (west of Appalachians). [1]
Owing to their popularity as pets, red-eared sliders have been released or escaped into the wild in many parts of the world. Feral populations of red-eared sliders are now found in Australia, Europe, South Africa, the Caribbean, Israel, Bahrain Mariana Islands, Guam, and south east and far east Asia. In Australia, it is illegal for members of the public to import, keep, trade, or release red-eared sliders, as they are regarded as an invasive species. The red-eared slider is included in the list of the world's 100 most invasive species published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. [2]

Invasive red-eared sliders cause negative impacts in the ecosystems they occupy because they have certain advantages over the native populations, such as a lower age at maturity, higher fecundity rates, and larger body size, which gives them a competitive advantage at basking and nesting sites, as well as when exploiting food resources. They also transmit diseases and displace the other turtle species with which they compete for food and breeding space.

Did You Know?/Fun Facts
  • Due to its popularity in the pet trade, and subsequent accidental/purposeful release by pet owners, there are now populations of red-eared sliders in Europe, where it is becoming increasingly abundant, especially in Portugal, Spain and France. [1]
  • It is a subspecies of the pond slider. Delaware has both yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders.
  • Behavioral thermoregulation - How a reptile may regulate its body temperature by its behavior. By basking in the sun to warm and moving to the shade to escape the heat of the day allows there animals to maintain a relatively stable temperature of 97-102 degrees.Brumation- a period of dormancy and low metabolic activity in reptiles that is similar to hibernation. During this time, metabolic and digestive systems slow or completely stop.
  • Carapace - the dorsal (back), convex part of the shell structure of a turtle, consisting of the animal's ribcage and spine combined with superficial bony plates called scutes.
  • Caruncle - A temporary "tooth" located on the snout of a turtle hatchling that aids it in in breaking out of their shell.
  • Cloaca - a cloaca is the posterior opening that serves as the only opening for the intestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts of certain animal species, mostly herptiles, fish and birds, but some rudimentary mammals (marsupials and monotremes, but also tenrecs and golden moles) also possess one.
  • Oviparous - refers to animals that lay eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother.
  • Plastron - the nearly flat part of the shell structure of a turtle, what one would call the belly or ventral surface of the shell.
[1] IUCN Red List, "Trachemys scripta," IUCN, [Online]. Available: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22028/0. [Accessed August 2014].
[2] Wikipedeia, "Red-eared slider," [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-eared_slider. [Accessed August 2014].

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