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Eastern Box Turtle

© written by Tasha Guenther

Eastern Box turtle on road

"Eastern Box Turtle"; used with permission under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is one cool looking turtle! The Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) has very striking colours, sharp looking claws, and orange-red eyes. The Eastern box turtle is a part of the American pond turtle family, Emydidae. This fancy turtle got its name from its ability to completely hide itself within its shell! In other words, it boxes itself in and remains completely still if it doesn't feel safe. Its main colours are orange, yellow, and brown. The colours of the Eastern box turtle remain mostly the same from turtle to turtle, but the marks on each turtle's shell (or carapace) are unique. Some Eastern box turtles have very striking shells, with vibrant orange and yellow colours, while some have mostly brown shells. Males are usually more colourful than the females. Also, males usually have the orange-red eyes, while the females have brown eyes.

Like their shells, the Eastern box turtles boast skin colours like yellow, orange, gray, and brown - it is speculated that this helps an Eastern box turtle blend in with its protective shell.

Eastern Box turtle peering

Photographer, Hunter Desportes; used with permission under C.C. BY 2.0

Unlike the some turtle species (such as the Diamondback terrapin), male Eastern box turtles are larger than females. Though this turtle species is considered to be a small-size, the largest of these turtles can measure up to 18cm!

Interestingly, the average Eastern box turtle has 5 toes on each front leg and 4 on each back leg. This is most likely because these turtles are forward moving, mostly forest dwelling turtles; their sharp clawed toes help to move them along. If a predator comes along, however, instead of using these sharp claws for protection, they immediately withdraw into their shells and wait until the predators leave - most do because the Eastern box turtle is impossible to prey on!