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Painted Turtle

© written by Tasha Guenther

Painted turtle basking in the sun

Photographer, John Clare; used with permission under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Look how pretty these are! The Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) gets its name obviously from its appearance. Its skin colour looks as though an artist has painted it on - thanks, nature! The Painted turtle is a part of the American pond turtle family, Emydidae.

It is the most common turtle in North America, found in many ponds, marshes, and water's edges. Like other American pond turtles, the Painted turtle loves swimming in the water and basking in the sun (as seen in the image). Very cute! Where I live, in British Columbia, Canada, the Painted turtle is actually the only native freshwater turtle! So, this one is quite special to me.

Painted turtle stare

"Painted Turtle"; used with permission under C.C. BY-NC 2.0

The Painted turtle's shell is characteristic in that it is actually wider than it is long - giving these turtles the classic round shape that everyone knows and loves. Painted turtles have webbed back legs; this helps them swim fast in the water! As said in the science section, turtles have the ability to shed their shell (carapace) plates (scutes). With this, Painted turtles are unique in that, every spring to summer, they shed their scutes. These scutes are often seen along the water's edge (near logs, reeds, etc.) where the turtles have been soaking in their favourite sunshine.

Painted turtle on log

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

Male painted turtles can measure anywhere between 5 to almost 20 cm! Like the Diamondback terrapin, the females are larger and measure up to 22 cm!

These females can lay groups of eggs (called clutches) - anywhere between 6 and 20 babies at one time!

Interestingly, however, Painted turtles lay their eggs one at a time in separate ground-holes. They actually wet the depressions with urine before laying each egg! This provides moisture and support. The things moms do for their young (aw! or ew?)