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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 138 years (wild) Observations: These are animals with negligible senescence (Miller 2001). In the wild, few animals live over 30-40 years but anecdotal evidence, which seems possible, suggests one animal may have lived up to 138 years in the wild (Nigrelli 1954).
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Box turtles are often mistaken for tortoises, but they are indeed more closely related to turtles. Box turtles are most famous for their hinged shell, which allows them to retract almost completely into their bony armor to hide from danger. This shell has great regernerative powers. A case was reported in which the carapace of a badly burned box turtle underwent complete regeneration.

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Conservation Status

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Terrapene carolina are not considered endangered at the national level in the United States, Canada, or Mexico, although several U.S. states, including Michigan, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, list T. carolina as a species of special concern. It is considered endangered in Maine. There is evidence that some populations are in decline due to habitat loss, road mortality, and collection for the pet trade. They are listed as lower risk by the IUCN and they are in CITES appendix II.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: special concern

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: lower risk - near threatened

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Life Cycle

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Terrapene carolina exhibit temperature dependent sex determination. Nests that are 22-27 degrees C tend to be males, and those above 28 degrees tend to be female. Terrapene carolina are well developed at birth (precocial) and grow at a rate of about 1.5 cm per year during the first five years, at which time they reach sexual maturity. Growth slows down considerably after that but has been reported to continue for at least over 20 years. Some Terrapene carolina are believed to live over 100 years.

Development - Life Cycle: temperature sex determination; indeterminate growth

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Benefits

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Terrapene carolina are dangerous to eat due to the possibility of being poisoned, presumably due to the turtle having eaten poisonous mushrooms that don't hurt it, but that retain their ability to poison humans. They sometimes cause damage to tomato, lettuce, cucumber, cantaloupe, and strawberry crops. They sometimes destroy the eggs of ground-nesting birds. They may carry the western equine encephalitis virus in their blood.

Box turtles eat some fungi that are poisonous to people. Therefore, box turtles may be dangerous to eat dif they have the poisons from the fungi in them. Box turltes sometimes cause damage to tomato, lettuce, cucumber, cantaloupe, and strawberry crops. They sometimes destroy the eggs of ground-nesting birds. Also they may carry the western equine encephalitis virus in their blood.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (carries human disease); crop pest; causes or carries domestic animal disease

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Benefits

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Box turtles are very popular as pets, and they may serve the ecological role of a seed distributor through their eating of berries that contain seeds. They also eat some injurious insects. The Iroquois and other Native Americans used them for food, medical, ceremonial, burial, and hunting purposes.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food ; body parts are source of valuable material; source of medicine or drug ; controls pest population

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Associations

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This species eats a wide variety of animals, so may effect various prey populations. Also, box turtles may disperse seeds as they eat berries of different kinds of plants.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Trophic Strategy

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Omnivorous, Terrapene carolina eats snails, insects, berries, fungi, slugs, worms, roots, flowers, fish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, birds, and eggs indiscriminately. They have been observed eating carrion, feeding on dead ducks, amphibians, assorted small mammals, and even a dead cow. Their preference varies greatly by season but there is one definite trend. Young are primarily carnivorous while they grow during their first 5-6 years. Adults tend to be mostly herbivorous, but they eat no green leaves. Young often hunt in ponds and streams because the type of food they prefer is easier to catch there, but adults usually feed on land. When confronted with several mealworms, a captive adult picked up each in turn and with a few bites killed or disabled it. Only when all were incapable of escape did the turtle start to feed. This behavior was observed on several occasions when more than one mealworm was offered (Ernst et al., 1994; Carr, 1952; Ernst and Barbour, 1972).

Animal Foods: birds; amphibians; reptiles; fish; eggs; carrion ; insects; mollusks; terrestrial worms

Plant Foods: fruit

Other Foods: fungus

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Distribution

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Exclusively North American, box turtles are found in the eastern United States, ranging from southern Maine to Florida along the East Coast, and west to Michigan, Illinois, eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Due to its popularity as a household pet, Terrapene carolina is sometimes found far outside its normal geographic range.

There are four subspecies of Terrapene carolina in the U.S. Terrapene carolina bauri (Florida box turtle) lives on the peninsula of Florida. Terrapene c. major (Gulf Coast box turtle) ranges from the panhandle of Florida westward along the Gulf Coast to eastern Texas. Terrapene c. triunguis (3 toed box turtle) lives in the Mississippi River Valley from northern Missouri southward across southeastern Kansas and eastern Oklahoma into south-central Texas; and southeastward across western Tennessee and Georgia to the coastal lowlands. Terrapene c. carolina (common box turtle), covering the largest area, lives from Michigan and Maine on the north, and ranges south to the boundaries of the other subspecies. Very little overlap occurs between the ranges of the subspecies of Terrapene carolina, except for a region in Mississippi and Alabama where T. c. triunguis and T. c. carolina overlap.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Habitat

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Terrapene carolina inhabits open woodlands, pastures, and marshy meadows. It is often found near streams and ponds.

Habitat Regions: temperate

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Other Habitat Features: riparian

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Life Expectancy

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Terrapene carolina can live over 100 years.

Typical lifespan
Status: wild:
100 (high) years.

Typical lifespan
Status: captivity:
40 (high) years.

Range lifespan
Status: wild:
138 (high) years.

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Morphology

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All Terrapene carolina have a bridgeless, bilobed, hinged plastron (ventral part of shell) that allows box turtles to close their shells almost completely. They have a steep margined, keeled, high-domed, rounded carapace (dorsal part of shell) with variable markings. Concentric growth furrows can be seen on the carapace, although in some older individuals they become very difficult to see. The upper jaw is slightly hooked. The toes are only slightly webbed.

Males are slightly larger on average, the posterior lobe of their plastron is concave, and the claws on their hind legs are short, thick, and curved. Males also have thicker and longer tails. Females' rear claws are longer, straighter, and more slender, and the posterior lobe of their plastron is flat or slightly convex.

There is some variation between the different subspecies of box turtles. Terrapene c. bauri is roughly 11cm x 8cm in size with bright yellow markings on their dark brown carapace in the shape of lines. The plastron also has lines, as does the head. They have three toes on their hind feet.

Terrapene c. carolina is about 15 cm x 10 cm in size with highly variable orange or yellow markings on their brown carapace. They have four toes on their hind feet.

Terrapene c. triunguis is about the same length as T. c. carolina, or a little longer, but with a more narrow shell. They have a tan or olive carapace with darker seams and some vague markings. Their plastron is a lighter yellowish color. They have orange, red, or yellow spots on their head and forelimbs, and males heads are completely red.

Terrapene c. major is the largest at about 18 cm x 12 cm in size. They have a dark brown shell that often has no pattern, or a faint pattern similar to that of bauri. They have dark skin and plastron as well as four toes on the hind feet.

Along the borders of the subspecies ranges, there exist populations that are extremely varied due to hybridization between subspecies. Many of these individuals are so varied that identification as a member of a subspecies is impossible.

Range length: 11 to 18 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Associations

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While juveniles have several predators, very few species can prey effectively on adults due to their ability to close their shells.

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Reproduction

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The mating season begins in the spring and continues throughout summer to about October. Males may mate with more than one female, or the same female several times over a period of several years.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

A female may lay fertile eggs for up to four years after one successful mating. Nesting occurs from May through July. Most nests are started at twilight and finished during the night. Nests are usually dug in sandy or loamy soil, using the hind legs. Then eggs are laid in this cavity and the nest is carefully covered up again. There are 3-8 eggs laid, though usually 4 or 5, and they are elliptical with thin, white, flexible shells roughly 3cm long by 2cm wide. Incubation normally last three months, but this varies according to soil temperature and moisture. Terrapene carolina exhibit temperature dependent sex determination. Nests that are 22-27 degrees C tend to be males, and those above 28 degrees tend to be female.

Terrapene carolina are well developed at birth (precocial) and grow at a rate of about 1.5cm per year during the first five years, at which time they reach sexual maturity. Growth slows down considerably after that but has been reported to continue for at least over 20 years. Some Terrapene carolina are believed to live over 100 years.

Along the borders of the subspecies ranges, there exist populations that are extremely varied due to hybridization between subspecies. Many of these individuals are so varied that identification as a member of a subspecies is impossible.

There is some variation between the courtship rituals of the subspecies. The courtship of Terrapene carolina carolina is divided into three phases: a circling, biting, shoving phase; a preliminary mounting phase; and a copulatory phase. Terrapene carolina major shows courtship and mating that is basically the same as in T. c. carolina, but they sometimes mate in shallow water. Terrapene carolina triunguis and T. c. bauri both have somewhat different rituals, which may represent the ancestral method. Both T. c. triunguis and T. c. bauri males have added the behavior of pulsating their throats. Terrapene carolina triunguis does this in front of the female, and T. c bauri* males climb up on the females' carapace with all four feet and then pulsate. The actual copulation is the same in all subspecies, with the male standing somewhat upright, leaning the concave part of his plastron against the back of the female's carapace. It is in this balanced position during which the male fertilizes the female with his penis. Males sometimes fall backwards after copulation, and if they can't right themselves they die of starvation.

Range number of offspring: 3 to 8.

Average number of offspring: 4-5.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 (high) years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 5 (high) years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

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Niedzielski, S. 2002. "Terrapene carolina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Terrapene_carolina.html
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Steven Niedzielski, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Matthew Wund, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Biology

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Common box turtles are predominantly terrestrial reptiles that are often seen early in the day, or after rain, when they emerge from the shelter of rotting leaves, logs, or a mammal burrow to forage. These turtles have an incredibly varied diet of animal and plant matter, including earthworms, slugs, insects, wild berries (2), and sometimes even animal carrion (4). In the warmer summer months, common box turtles are more likely to be seen near the edges of swamps or marshlands (2), possibly in an effort to stay cool. If common box turtles do become too hot, (when their body temperature rises to around 32° centigrade), they smear saliva over their legs and head; as the saliva evaporates it leaves them comfortably cooler. Similarly, the turtle may urinate on its hind limbs to cool the body parts it is unable to cover with saliva (5). Courtship in the common box turtle, which usually takes place in spring, begins with a 'circling, biting and shoving' phase. These acts are carried out by the male on the female (4). Following some pushing and shell-biting, the male grips the back of the female's shell with his hind feet to enable him to lean back, slightly beyond the vertical, and mate with the female (6). Remarkably, female common box turtles can store sperm for up to four years after mating (4), and thus do not need to mate each year (6). In May, June or July, females normally lay a clutch of 1 to 11 eggs into a flask-shaped nest excavated in a patch of sandy or loamy soil. After 70 to 80 days of incubation, the eggs hatch, and the small hatchlings emerge from the nest in late summer. In the northern parts of its range, the common box turtle may enter hibernation in October or November. They burrow into loose soil, sand, vegetable matter, or mud at the bottom of streams and pools, or they may use a mammal burrow, and will remain in their chosen shelter until the cold winter has passed (4).
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Conservation

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The common box turtle is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this species should be carefully monitored to ensure it is compatible with the species' survival (3). In addition, many U.S. states now regulate or prohibit the taking of this species (4).
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Description

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This turtle gets its common name from the structure of its shell which consists of a high domed carapace (upper shell), and large, hinged plastron (lower shell) which allows the turtle to close the shell, sealing its vulnerable head and limbs safely within an impregnable box (2). The carapace is brown, often adorned with a variable pattern of orange or yellow lines, spots, bars or blotches. The plastron is dark brown and may be uniformly coloured, or show darker blotches or smudges. The common box turtle has a small to moderately sized head and a distinctive hooked upper jaw (4). The majority of adult male common box turtles have red irises, while those of the female are yellowish-brown. Males also differ from females by possessing shorter, stockier and more curved claws on their hind feet, and longer and thicker tails. There are six living subspecies of the common box turtle, each differing slightly in appearance, namely in the colour and patterning of the carapace, and the possession of either three or four toes on each hind foot. The subspecies Terrapene carolina triunguis is particularly distinctive as most males have a bright red head (4).
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Habitat

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The common box turtle inhabits open woodlands, marshy meadows, floodplains, scrub forest and brushy grasslands (2) (4).
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Range

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The common box turtle occurs in the eastern United States and eastern Mexico, where it is distributed from Maine and Michigan to eastern Texas and south Florida, and south to the Mexican states of Yucatán and Quintana Roo. T. c. mexicana (Mexican box turtle) and T. c. yucatana (Yucatán box turtle) occur in Mexico. The other four subspecies, T. c. carolina (eastern box turtle), T. c. major (Gulf Coast box turtle), T. c. bauri (Florida box turtle) and T. c. triunguis (three-toed box turtle)are found in the United States (4).
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Status

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Classified as Lower Risk / Near Threatened (LR/nt) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Threats

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While not yet considered by the IUCN to be globally threatened (1), many populations of the common box turtle have been reduced or eliminated by habitat destruction caused by agricultural and urban development. Development brings with it an additional threat in the form of increased infrastructure, as common box turtles are frequently killed on roads and highways. Collection for the international pet trade may also impact populations in some areas (4) (7). The life history characteristics of the common box turtle, (long lifespan and slow reproductive rate) (4), make it particularly vulnerable to such threats.
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Associated Plant Communities

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More info for the term: shrub

In New York, shrub habitats supporting eastern box turtles populations were dominated by northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), blackberry (Rubus spp.), and sumac (Rhus spp.). Woodlands were dominated by black cherry (Prunus serotina), gray birch (Betula populifolia), aspen and cottonwood (Populus spp.), and red mulberry (Morus rubra) [19].

In Florida, habitats dominated by Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius) are commonly used [24,28].
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Common Names

provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
eastern box turtle

three-toed box turtle

Florida box turtle

Gulf Coast box turtle
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Conservation Status

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Information on state-level protected status of animals in the United States is available at NatureServe, although recent changes in status may not be included.
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Cover Requirements

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More info for the terms: cover, herbaceous, litter, natural, vines

Forest floor components utilized by eastern box turtles include litter, natural depressions, soft soils, brush, and woody debris. Eastern box turtles often seek shelter by digging a form in moist soil or leaf litter. They sleep within forms at night and rest in them during the day. Their carapaces are partially to completely covered by soil, litter, or vegetation while in the form [71]. The average depth of forms in Arkansas was 0.21 inch (0.53 cm) below the surface [63]. Other cover, such as brush piles, woody debris, briar patches, and tangled vines is utilized throughout the day [71]. Hatchling and juvenile eastern box turtles often hide under leaf litter, which does not offer protection against fire [34]. The microhabitat in which neonate eastern box turtles were found had significantly more leaf litter (p=0.007), less herbaceous cover (p<0.001), and shorter vegetation (p<0.001) than random sites. Neonate eastern box turtles were found at microsites with high light intensity and low canopy cover, which led to higher temperatures than at nearby microsites [38].

The most important habitat features for hibernating eastern box turtles include cavities or natural depressions (such as stump holes and other hollows) filled with deep litter, as well as soft soils, thick brush, and woody debris [12,14,24,73]. Some eastern box turtles overwinter in depressions along gully bottoms and hillsides [12]. As winter gets progressively colder, eastern box turtles dig deeper into litter and soil to gain more protection from cold [12]. Snow cover helps insulate hibernating turtles [1]. In rare circumstances, eastern box turtles successfully hibernate while submerged in a stream or pond [11,44]. Eastern box turtles may also utilize burrows dug by other wildlife [34]. Juveniles that hatch late in the season may overwinter in the nest [52]. Multiple eastern box turtles are occasionally found overwintering in the same location [12].

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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Direct Effects of Fire

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More info for the terms: forest, hardwood, hibernation, litter, prescribed burn, prescribed fire, wildfire

Fire mortality for the eastern box turtle can be highly variable. For instance, after a prescribed fire in a tallgrass prairie habitat in Missouri, 22 eastern box turtles were found alive and 20 were dead [39]. Babbitt and Babbitt [3] discovered 17 % mortality in an eastern box turtle population in Florida after what was probably a wildfire. The study site was located near the Everglades where prefire vegetation was characterized by "thick undergrowth" [3]. In Oklahoma, 25 eastern box turtles and ornate box turtles (T. ornata) were found dead after a fire, while only 3 box turtles (Terrapene spp.) were found alive [6]. Allard [2] suggested that spring fires may be detrimental to eastern box turtles when they become active after hibernation. This statement was based on carcasses discovered in burned areas at this time of year, although data on eastern box turtles killed in such fires were not given. No eastern box turtles were captured in a prescribed burn site in Maryland. However, captures were very low in the cut-over site, white oak-willow oak-red maple (Quercus alba-Q. phellos-Acer rubrum) forest, and loblolly pine-mixed hardwood forest [54]. The low capture success in this study limits the inferences that can be drawn in regards to the effects of fire on eastern box turtles.

Ernst and others [34] suggested that eastern box turtles occupying burrows likely escape fire completely. However, some eastern box turtles that died in an apparent wildfire in Florida were found in burrows [3]. Hatchling and juvenile eastern box turtles appear to hide under litter, which exposes them to fire, rather than burrowing or creating forms[34].

Eastern box turtles appear incapable of escaping advancing fires, so they are frequently found with burn scars [3,13,34]. Many eastern box turtles that survive fire while in their forms are badly burned, often with extensive damage to the shell [3,34]. Eastern box turtles can regenerate part to all of damaged or burned shells [64,68]. The ability of eastern box turtles to regenerate their shells after being burned is possibly an adaptation for survival in fire-prone environments [68].

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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Distribution

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The range of the eastern box turtle extends from southern Maine and southern Ontario to the Gulf Coast and Midwest of the United States, with isolated populations occurring in eastern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula [27].
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Food Habits

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In general, eastern box turtles will eat anything edible that fits into their mouths [23]. Examples include fungi, snails and slugs (Gastropoda), insects (Insecta), spiders (Arachnida), centipedes (Chilopoda), millipedes (Diplopoda), earthworms (Annelida), carrion, and vegetation [10,23,48,71,74]. Fungi may comprise 10% to 55% of the eastern box turtle diet [10,71,74]. In Kentucky, snails and slugs comprised and average of 52.5% of the diet by volume [10]. Consuming carrion appears common and includes reptile, amphibian, mammal, bird, and fish carcasses [48]. Specific examples include eastern racers (Coluber constrictor), Fowler's toads (Bufo fowleri), eastern ribbonsnakes (Thamnophis sauritus), and red-bellied snakes (Storeria occipitomaculata) [48]. An eastern box turtle was once seen feeding on a cow (Bos taurus) carcass [13]. Eastern box turtles have been observed eating dead toads (Bufo spp.) [58]. An eastern box turtle in Oklahoma was observed preying upon plains leopard frog (Rana blairi) tadpoles in a dry pond [7]. Dead rats (Rattus spp.) are eaten by captive eastern box turtles [1].

Plant materials eaten by eastern box turtles include leaves, berries, roots, flower buds, and seeds [10,23,48,71,74]. Eastern box turtles have been observed eating half-flower (Scaevola taccaca) berries, cactus (Cactaceae) fruits, and seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) in Florida [23]. Eastern box turtles consume and disperse seeds of pond-apple (Annona glabra), Florida silver palm (Coccothrinax argentata), fig (Ficus spp.), redgal, (Morinda umbellata), sapodilla (Manilkara zapoda), crowngrass (Paspalum spp.), mangroveberry (Psidium longipes), Everglades greenbrier (Smilax coriacea), Key thatch palm (Thrinax morrisii), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and Long Key locustberry (Byrsonima lucida) [51]. They may also consume and disperser seeds of jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema spp.), mayapple (Podophyllum petatum), black cherry (Prunus serotina), summer grape (Vitis aestivalis), common elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), blue ridge blueberry (Vaccinium vacillans), white mulberry (Morus alba), American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), Indian strawberry (Duchesnea indica), Virginia strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), blackberry (Rubus spp.), muscadine grape (V. rotundifolia), and frost grape (V. vulpina) [8]. Other vegetative foods of eastern box turtles include fox grape (V. labrusca), cherry (Prunus spp.), pear (Pyrus spp.,) sweetroot (Osmorhiza spp.), American wintergreen (Pyrola americana), groundcherry (Physalis spp.), grasses, and mosses [8,48,71,74].

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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Habitat-related Fire Effects

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More info for the terms: fire regime, litter

Data collected on the effects of fire on eastern box turtle habitat are limited. Frequent fires may limit the distribution or population size of eastern box turtles in some areas. This may be especially true in Florida [13]. Schwartz and Schwartz [65] determined that spring fires may burn off leaf litter covering hibernating eastern box turtles, exposing them to freezing temperatures. Since eastern box turtles show a preference for forested and other woody habitats (see Preferred Habitat), fires that reduce or eliminate forested habitats could be detrimental to eastern box turtle populations. However, eastern box turtles are found in successional habitats [54,60,65], which indicates they could adjust to changing landscapes that are caused by fire.

FIRE REGIMES: The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where the eastern box turtle is important. Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find FIRE REGIMES".

Community or ecosystem Dominant species Fire return interval range (years) maple-beech Acer-Fagus spp. 684-1,385 [16,77] silver maple-American elm Acer saccharinum-Ulmus americana <5 to 200 sugar maple Acer saccharum >1,000 [77] bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [49,59] bluestem-Sacahuista prairie Andropogon littoralis-Spartina spartinae <10 [59] birch Betula spp. 80-230 [75] sugarberry-America elm-green ash Celtis laevigata-Ulmus americana-Fraxinus pennsylvanica <35 to 200 Atlantic white-cedar Chamaecyparis thyoides 35 to >200 beech-sugar maple Fagus spp.-Acer saccharum >1,000 black ash Fraxinus nigra 77] green ash Fraxinus pennsylvanica <35 to >300 [33,77] cedar glades Juniperus virginiana 3-22 [42,59] yellow-poplar Liriodendron tulipifera <35 shortleaf pine Pinus echinata 2-15 shortleaf pine-oak Pinus echinata-Quercus spp. <10 slash pine Pinus elliottii 3-8 slash pine-hardwood Pinus elliottii-variable <35 sand pine Pinus elliottii var. elliottii 25-45 [77] South Florida slash pine Pinus elliottii var. densa 1-15 [57,69,77] longleaf-slash pine Pinus palustris-P. elliottii 1-4 [57,77] longleaf pine-scrub oak Pinus palustris-Quercus spp. 6-10 Table Mountain pine Pinus pungens <35 to 200 [77] pitch pine Pinus rigida 6-25 [9,45] pocosin Pinus serotina 3-8 pond pine Pinus serotina 3-8 [77] eastern white pine Pinus strobus 35-200 [75,77] eastern white pine-northern red oak-red maple Pinus strobus-Quercus rubra-Acer rubrum 35-200 loblolly pine Pinus taeda 3-8 loblolly-shortleaf pine Pinus taeda-P. echinata 10 to <35 Virginia pine Pinus virginiana 10 to <35 Virginia pine-oak Pinus virginiana-Quercus spp. 10 to <35 sycamore-sweetgum-American elm Platanus occidentalis-Liquidambar styraciflua-Ulmus americana <35 to 200 [77] eastern cottonwood Populus deltoides <35 to 200 [59] quaking aspen-paper birch Populus tremuloides-Betula papyrifera 35-200 [32,77] black cherry-sugar maple Prunus serotina-Acer saccharum >1,000 oak-hickory Quercus-Carya spp. <35 northeastern oak-pine Quercus-Pinus spp. 10 to <35 [77] oak-gum-cypress Quercus-Nyssa spp.-Taxodium distichum 35 to >200 [57] southeastern oak-pine Quercus-Pinus spp. <10 white oak-black oak-northern red oak Quercus alba-Q. velutina-Q. rubra <35 northern pin oak Quercus ellipsoidalis <35 bear oak Quercus ilicifolia <35 bur oak Quercus macrocarpa <10 [77] oak savanna Quercus macrocarpa/Andropogon gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium 2-14 [59,77] chestnut oak Quercus prinus 3-8 [77] northern red oak Quercus rubra 10 to <35 [77] post oak-blackjack oak Quercus stellata-Q. marilandica <10 black oak Quercus velutina <35 live oak Quercus virginiana 10 to<100 [77] cabbage palmetto-slash pine Sabal palmetto-Pinus elliottii <10 [57,77] blackland prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Nassella leucotricha <10 Fayette prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Buchloe dactyloides <10 [77] eastern hemlock-yellow birch Tsuga canadensis-Betula alleghaniensis 100-240 [75,77]
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Habitat: Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

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SAF COVER TYPES [37]:




14 Northern pin oak

20 White pine-northern red oak-red maple

24 Hemlock-yellow birch

25 Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch

26 Sugar maple-basswood

27 Sugar maple

28 Black cherry-maple

39 Black ash-American elm-red maple

40 Post oak-blackjack oak

42 Bur oak

43 Bear oak

44 Chestnut oak

45 Pitch pine

46 Eastern redcedar

50 Black locust

51 White pine-chestnut oak

52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak

53 White oak

55 Northern red oak

57 Yellow-poplar

58 Yellow-poplar-eastern hemlock

59 Yellow-poplar-white oak-northern red oak

60 Beech-sugar maple

61 River birch-sycamore

62 Silver maple-American elm

63 Cottonwood

64 Sassafras-persimmon

65 Pin oak-sweetgum

69 Sand pine

70 Longleaf pine

71 Longleaf pine-scrub oak

72 Southern scrub oak

73 Southern redcedar

74 Cabbage palmetto

75 Shortleaf pine

76 Shortleaf pine-oak

78 Virginia pine-oak

79 Virginia pine

80 Loblolly pine-shortleaf pine

81 Loblolly pine

82 Loblolly pine-hardwood

83 Longleaf pine-slash pine

84 Slash pine

85 Slash pine-hardwood

87 Sweetgum-yellow-poplar

88 Willow oak-water oak-diamondleaf (laurel) oak

89 Live oak

91 Swamp chestnut oak-cherrybark oak

92 Sweetgum-willow oak

93 Sugarberry-American elm-green ash

94 Sycamore-sweetgum-American elm

95 Black willow

96 Overcup oak-water hickory

97 Atlantic white-cedar

98 Pond pine

103 Water tupelo-swamp tupelo

105 Tropical hardwoods

108 Red maple

109 Hawthorn

110 Black oak

111 South Florida slash pine

235 Cottonwood-willow
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

ECOSYSTEMS [40]:




FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine

FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine

FRES14 Oak-pine

FRES15 Oak-hickory

FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress

FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood

FRES18 Maple-beech-birch

FRES39 Prairie
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

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KUCHLER [50] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:





K072 Sea oats prairie

K074 Bluestem prairie

K076 Blackland prairie

K077 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie

K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100

K083 Cedar glades

K084 Cross Timbers

K088 Fayette prairie

K089 Black Belt

K090 Live oak-sea oats

K098 Northern floodplain forest

K100 Oak-hickory forest

K101 Elm-ash forest

K102 Beech-maple forest

K103 Mixed mesophytic forest

K104 Appalachian oak forest

K106 Northern hardwoods

K109 Transition between K104 and K106

K110 Northeastern oak-pine forest

K111 Oak-hickory-pine

K112 Southern mixed forest

K113 Southern floodplain forest

K114 Pocosin

K115 Sand pine scrub

K116 Subtropical pine forest
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):

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SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [67]:




601 Bluestem prairie

710 Bluestem prairie

711 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie

720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)

723 Sea oats

731 Cross timbers-Oklahoma

732 Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)

801 Savanna

802 Missouri prairie

805 Riparian

808 Sand pine scrub

809 Mixed hardwood and pine

810 Longleaf pine-turkey oak hills

811 South Florida flatwoods

812 North Florida flatwoods

813 Cutthroat seeps

814 Cabbage palm flatwoods

815 Upland hardwood hammocks

816 Cabbage palm hammocks

817 Oak hammocks

820 Everglades flatwoods
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Management Considerations

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More info for the terms: forest, swamp

Eastern box turtles were observed less frequently in a clearcut than in forest-clearcut edge and control habitats in an gum-willow oak-green ash (Nyssa-Liquidambar spp.-Q. phellos-Fraxinus pennsylvanica) swamp in South Carolina, although the total number of observations in each habitat was very low [61].

The biggest threats to eastern box turtles are habitat loss and fragmentation. Since the arrival of Europeans, eastern box turtle habitat has been altered or lost through agriculture and urbanization. These activities have isolated eastern box turtle populations and have limited food, water, and mating opportunities. Additionally, eastern box turtles living near forest edges are more vulnerable to predation by northern raccoons and domestic dogs. Other major threats are automobiles, farm and mowing equipment, and the pet trade. Thousands of eastern box turtles are killed each year while trying to cross roads. Some motorists deliberately run over eastern box turtles for sport. Many more are run over by people mowing their lawns and clearing land. Often, eastern box turtles cannot be seen in tall vegetation. Finally, eastern box turtles are popular pets. Individuals are frequently picked up and taken home or sold through pet stores. Removing individuals from the wild reduces the genetic diversity and reproductive potential of a population [21].
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Predators

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Common mammalian predators of box turtles are northern raccoons (Procyon lotor), skunks (Mephitis mephitis and Spilogale spp.), American minks (Mustela vison), coyotes (Canis latrans), domestic and feral dogs (Canis familiaris), and rats (Rattus spp.) [2,35]. Other potential predators include American badgers (Taxidea taxis), Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana), foxes (Vulpes and Urocyon spp.), nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus), and weasels (Mustela spp.) [35]. Birds that prey upon eastern box turtles include American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), Mississippi kites (Ictinia mississippiensis), barn owls (Tyto alba), herring gulls (Larus argentatus), and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) [35,46].

The shells of young box turtles are not strongly ossified until they reach several years of age, making them vulnerable to predators [26]. Hatchling box turtles may fall prey to shrews, birds, eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana), and snakes [4,44,53]. Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus), eastern racers (Coluber constrictor), and other snakes may swallow young eastern box turtles whole [35,47,56].

Eastern box turtle eggs are preyed upon by snakes such as scarletsnakes (Cemophora coccinea), hog-nosed snakes (Heterodon spp.), common kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula), pinesnakes (Pituophis melanoleucus), and eastern ratsnakes (Elaphe obsoleta), as well as ants and other invertebrates [2,35,58].

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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Preferred Habitat

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More info for the terms: cover, density, forb, forest, hardwood, herbaceous, litter, selection, shrub, succession

Eastern box turtles show a preference for forests, especially bottomland forests and edge habitats [6,12,17,19,31,52,54,60,63,65,70,71]. Eastern box turtles in Mississippi inhabited longleaf pine-slash pine (Pinus palustris-P. elliottii) forests ranging from early to mature to late successional stands [60]. Mixed stand habitats in Maryland, dominated by loblolly pine (P. taeda) that originated as agricultural land, were undergoing succession to an oak-maple (Quercus-Acer spp.) forest [54]. In Missouri, eastern box turtles occupied a previously cultivated ridge [65]. In an Oklahoma study, an eastern box turtle habitat was partially dominated by range and pasture [6]. Eastern box turtles occasionally inhabit pastures and marshes in Kansas [17]. Eastern box turtles utilized grasslands, open lawns, and meadows in Arkansas and Florida [28,63]. Conversely, eastern box turtles seemed reluctant to use grassy, herbaceous, and low brush-covered fields in New York [52]. In another New York study and in Maryland, eastern box turtles did not appear to discriminate between habitats because they were found in bottomland hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood forests, shrublands, mixed grasslands, wetlands, riparian zones, croplands, and rural developed areas [19,54,70,71,72]. However, abundance of eastern box turtles in each of these habitats was not reported.

High humidity seems to be one of the most important factors in habitat selection. Mean relative humidity in eastern box turtle habitat in Arkansas was above 80%. Average total ground cover around forms (shallow depressions dug by eastern box turtles) was 40.27%, while the litter averaged 54.34% cover and a depth of 1.41 inches (3.57 cm). Average grass cover at the forms was 12.16%, forb cover was 14.32%, and shrub cover averaged 8.81%. Average canopy cover above forms was 56.05% with an average canopy height of 36.65 feet (11.17 m) [63]. The undergrowth in a Maryland forest was littered with heaps of woody debris, fallen branches, logs, and stumps [72].

Forests provide cool areas and high humidity during the heat of the summer [63]. The most preferred forest habitats were those with the most moisture and highest diversity [52]. In Mississippi, eastern box turtles were found in habitats characterized by gently rolling hills dissected by intermittent and perennial streams [60]. Box turtles (Terrapene spp.) seem to avoid ridges where moisture is low and generally avoid steep hillsides and embankments [24]. Eastern box turtles may use virtually any habitat during rainy weather [13], and they are most active after rain showers [58].

In addition to humid environments, eastern box turtles utilize open water extensively. Eastern box turtles swim across streams and other bodies of water [71,76]. Eastern box turtles are also known to spend hours or days soaking in puddles, lakes, streams, and wet gullies [1,24,71]. In Tennessee, they utilized temporary ponds during periods of high temperature and low precipitation [31]. Eastern box turtles, especially juveniles, may dry out and perish during long periods of drought [1]. Neonates may congregate in open water or seek shade after hatching to avoid dehydration and heat stress [1,11].

Elevation: In a review, Dodd [27] notes that eastern box turtles in New England are common from sea level up to 490 feet (150 m) in elevation, and rare to 705 feet (215 m). In the southern Appalachians, eastern box turtles are common from sea level to 4,300 feet (1,300 m) but rare at higher elevations [27]. Wilson and Friddle [80] noted that eastern box turtles are common in valleys below 1,000 feet (300 m) in elevation, but are rare on ridges above 2,000 feet (600 m) in West Virginia.

Density/Home Range: Average densities of eastern box turtle populations can vary widely and may reflect differences in habitat quality and other environmental factors. For instance, in Indiana, density estimates were 2.7 to 5.7 eastern box turtles/ha [78]. A density estimate in a Virginia population was considerably higher at 35 eastern box turtles/ha [79]. In Missouri, eastern box turtles had an average density of 7.3 to 10.9/acre (18.1-27.0/ha) [66]. In Maryland, an average of 4.1 to 5.9/acre was found (1.7-2.4/ha) [43,71]. In Tennessee, there were 12.3 eastern box turtles/acre (5.0/ha) on average [30]. An eastern box turtle population in Florida had an estimated density of 14.9 to 16.3 adults/ha [25,62].

Eastern box turtles do not appear to be territorial because they are commonly found grouped together under cover or in close proximity to each other. Eastern box turtles occupy the same home range year after year. However, females may leave their home ranges to lay eggs [71]. Home ranges of eastern box turtles in Missouri averaged 3.6 acres (1.5 ha) for females and 3.8 acres (1.5 ha) for males [65]. Average home ranges over a 19-year period in Missouri were 12.7 acres (5.1 ha) for females and 12.9 acres (5.2 ha) for males at the same location [66]. Home ranges in New York may average 4.35 to 17.20 acres (1.76-6.96 ha) [52]. Home range size of eastern box turtles in Virginia averaged 19.5 acres (7.9 ha) [79]. On average, home ranges of eastern box turtles ranged between 4.65 acres (1.88 ha) and 5.58 acres (2.26 ha) in Tennessee [31].

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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [5]:




14 Great Plains
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

States or Provinces

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(key to state/province abbreviations)
UNITED STATES AL AR CT DE FL GA IL IN KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MS MO NH NJ NY NC OH OK PA RI SC TN TX VA WV DC
CANADA ON
MEXICO Camp. Hgo. Q.R. S.L.P. Tamps. Ver. Yuc.
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Taxonomy

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The scientific name of the eastern box turtle is Terrapene carolina
Linnaeus (Emydidae). Subspecies in the United States include [20]:


Terrapene carolina carolina (Linnaeus)

Terrapene carolina bauri Taylor

Terrapene carolina major (Agassiz)

Terrapene carolina triungius (Agassiz)
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Timing of Major Life History Events

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Sexual maturity for the eastern box turtle is reached at 5 to 10 years of age [55]. Dodd [25] noted in a review that eastern box turtles may live to exceed 100 years on occasion, while reaching 50 to 60 years may be fairly common. Most wild eastern box turtles likely only live up to 5 years [25].

Hibernation: Eastern box turtles are active from April to November in northern parts of their range, as well as on warm winter days [1,11,27,52,63,65]. Hibernation begins October to November, and emergence from hibernation begins in March [12]. Eastern box turtles do not appear to hibernate in Florida. Several environmental cues have been identified relating to the timing of hibernation. Generally, eastern box turtles hibernate between the last severe autumn frost and the 1st spring frost [35]. One study concluded that they begin emerging from hibernation when ambient temperatures reach 65 °F (18 °C) in spring [17]. Another study suggested that box turtles (T. carolina and T. ornata) emerge from hibernation when subsurface soil temperatures (4-8 inches (10-20 cm) below the soil surface) are at least 45 °F (7 °C) for a minimum of 5 days [41].

Reproduction: Mating occurs May to October in Missouri [65] and has been observed in late November in Florida [22]. Nesting occurs May to July [27,36], with hatching from August to November [27,36,44]. Clutches may contain 1 to 9 eggs with an average of 3.67 to 5 eggs per clutch being typical [13,27,46]. Multiple clutches of eggs may be laid in a single year [79]. Eastern box turtle nests are roughly as deep as the female can reach with her hind legs, approximately 2 to 4 inches (6-10 cm). Eggs are laid primarily during rainy and overcast weather [18]. Incubation lasts 60 to103 days [17,18,36]. Males primarily develop at cooler temperatures while females predominantly develop at higher temperatures [44].

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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Use of Fire in Population Management

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Fire at any time of year appears to be harmful to eastern box turtles since they are unable to escape [3,13,34]. Fire mortality has not been studied extensively, but mortality is consistently high in studies that have examined the effects of fire on eastern box turtle populations [3,6,39]. Given the high mortality rate, frequent fires may severely reduce an eastern box turtle population [13]. However, given that at least a few individuals appear to survive fire, a turtle population may be able to recover if the site has a long fire return interval and the forested habitat has not been greatly reduced.

High-severity fires that kill trees and scorch canopies would likely be detrimental to eastern box turtles since they favor forests [6,12,17,19,31,52,54,60,63,65,70,71]. The removal of the litter layer by fire could also be detrimental because litter is used extensively for cover throughout the year [12,38,63]. The adverse affects of removing litter from the forest floor early in the year would probably be short-term if the leaves in the canopy fell later in the year. However, an autumn fire occurring after most leaves have fallen would have more severe effects on eastern box turtles since a deep litter layer is crucial during hibernation [12,14,24,73]. Timing of fire may be less of a problem in Florida since eastern box turtles typically do not hibernate in that location [35]. More research is needed to address these possibilities.

Research on the effects of fire on eastern box turtle populations and habitat is lacking. Concern for the eastern box turtle already exists over populations that have been isolated through habitat fragmentation [21]. More research is needed to determine if fire in these habitat fragments would be detrimental to the isolated eastern box turtle populations.
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Luensmann, Peggy S. 2006. Terrapene carolina. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/teca/all.html

Common box turtle

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The common box turtle (Terrapene carolina) is a species of box turtle with six existing subspecies. It is found throughout the Eastern United States and Mexico. The box turtle has a distinctive hinged lowered shell (the box) that allows it to completely enclose itself. Its upper jaw is long and curved.

The turtle is primarily terrestrial and eats a wide variety of plants and animals. The females lay their eggs in the summer. Turtles in the northern part of their range hibernate over the winter.

Common box turtle numbers are declining because of habitat loss, roadkill, and capture for the pet trade. The species is classified as vulnerable to threats to its survival by the IUCN Red List. Three U.S. states name subspecies of the common box turtle as their official reptile.

Classification

Terrapene carolina was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his landmark 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae. It is the type species for the genus Terrapene and has more subspecies than the other three species within that genus. The eastern box turtle subspecies was the one recognized by Linnaeus. The other five subspecies were first classified during the 19th century.[4] In addition, one extinct subspecies, T. c. putnami, is distinguished.[5]

Subspecies

Parentheses around the name of an authority indicate that he originally described the subspecies in a genus other than Terrapene.

Description

hand holding a turtle up so that we see the bottom of it. It has a pleated look with noticeable hinging and bending of the lower shell, running crosswise.
The hinges of the box turtle's lower shell

The common box turtle (Terrapene carolina) gets its common name from the structure of its shell which consists of a high domed carapace (upper shell), and large, hinged plastron (lower shell) which allows the turtle to close the shell, sealing its vulnerable head and limbs safely within an impregnable box.[6] The carapace is brown, often adorned with a variable pattern of orange or yellow lines, spots, bars or blotches. The plastron is dark brown and may be uniformly coloured, or show darker blotches or smudges.[7]

The common box turtle has a small to moderately sized head and a distinctive hooked upper jaw.[7] The majority of adult male common box turtles have red irises, while those of the female are yellowish-brown. Males also differ from females by possessing shorter, stockier and more curved claws on their hind feet, and longer and thicker tails.[7]

There are six living subspecies of the common box turtle, each differing slightly in appearance, namely in the colour and patterning of the carapace, and the possession of either three or four toes on each hind foot. The subspecies Terrapene carolina triunguis is particularly distinctive as most males have a bright red head.[7]

Distribution

The common box turtle inhabits open woodlands, road sides, road middles, marshy meadows, floodplains, scrub forests and brushy grasslands[6][7] in much of the eastern United States, from Maine and Michigan to eastern Texas and south Florida. It was once found in Canada in southern Ontario and is still found in Mexico along the Gulf Coast and in the Yucatán Peninsula.[8][7] The species range is not continuous as the two Mexican subspecies, T. c. mexicana (Mexican box turtle) and T. c. yucatana (Yucatán box turtle), are separated from the US subspecies by a gap in western Texas. Three of the US subspecies; T. c. carolina (eastern box turtle), T. c. major (Gulf Coast box turtle) and T. c. bauri (Florida box turtle); occur roughly in the areas indicated by their names. T. c. triunguis (three-toed box turtle) is found in the central United States.[7] The species has become extirpated from Ontario and Canada as a whole.[9]

Behavior

angled downward view of a turtle facing to the upper right as she squeezes out an egg out the back. There is a distended part of her body far behind her half covering the egg.
Egg-laying

Common box turtles are predominantly terrestrial reptiles that are often seen early in the day, or after rain, when they emerge from the shelter of rotting leaves, logs, or a mammal burrow to forage. These turtles have an incredibly varied diet of animal and plant matter, including earthworms, slugs, insects, wild berries,[6] and sometimes even animal carrion.[7]

In the warmer summer months, common box turtles are more likely to be seen near the edges of swamps or marshlands,[6] possibly in an effort to stay cool. If common box turtles do become too hot, (when their body temperature rises to around 32 °C), they smear saliva over their legs and head; as the saliva evaporates it leaves them comfortably cooler. Similarly, the turtle may urinate on its hind limbs to cool the body parts it is unable to cover with saliva.[10]

Courtship in the common box turtle, which usually takes place in spring, begins with a "circling, biting and shoving" phase. These acts are carried out by the male on the female.[7] Following some pushing and shell-biting, the male grips the back of the female's shell with his hind feet to enable him to lean back, slightly beyond the vertical, and mate with the female.[11] Remarkably, female common box turtles can store sperm for up to four years after mating,[7] and thus do not need to mate each year.[11]

In May, June or July, females normally lay a clutch of 1 to 11 eggs into a flask-shaped nest excavated in a patch of sandy or loamy soil. After 70 to 80 days of incubation, the eggs hatch, and the small hatchlings emerge from the nest in late summer. In the northern parts of its range, the common box turtle may enter hibernation in October or November. They burrow into loose soil, sand, vegetable matter, or mud at the bottom of streams and pools, or they may use a mammal burrow, and will remain in their chosen shelter until the cold winter has passed.[7] The common box turtle has been known to attain the greatest lifespan of any vertebrate outside of the tortoises. One specimen lived to be at least 138 years of age.[12]

Human interaction

Conservation

Although the common box turtle has a wide range and was once considered common, many populations are in decline as a result of a number of diverse threats. Agricultural and urban development is destroying habitat, while human fire management is degrading it.[8] Development brings with it an additional threat in the form of increased infrastructure, as common box turtles are frequently killed on roads and highways. Collection for the international pet trade may also impact populations in some areas.[7][13] The life history characteristics of the common box turtle (long lifespan and slow reproductive rate)[7] make it particularly vulnerable to such threats. The common box turtle is therefore classified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.[8] The common box turtle is also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this species should be carefully monitored to ensure it is compatible with the species' survival.[14] In addition, many U.S. states now regulate or prohibit the taking of this species.[7]

This species also occurs in a number of protected areas, some of which are large enough to protect populations from the threat of development, while it may also occur in the Sierra del Abra Tanchipa Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Conservation recommendations for the common box turtle include establishing management practices during urban developments that are sympathic to this species, as well as further research into its life history and the monitoring of populations.[8]

State reptiles

"The turtle watches undisturbed as countless generations of faster 'hares' run by to quick oblivion, and is thus a model of patience for mankind, and a symbol of our State's unrelenting pursuit of great and lofty goals."

North Carolina Secretary of State[15]

Common box turtles are official state reptiles of four U.S. states. North Carolina and Tennessee honor the eastern box turtle,[16][17][18] Missouri names the three-toed box turtle,[19] and Kansas adopted the ornate box turtle in 1986.[20][21]

In Pennsylvania, the eastern box turtle made it through one house of the legislature, but failed to win final naming in 2009.[22] In Virginia, bills to honor the eastern box turtle failed in 1999 and then in 2009. For the most recent failure, a Republican legislator characterized the creature as being cowardly because of its shell. However, the main problem in Virginia was that the creature was too closely linked to neighbor state North Carolina.[23][24]

References

This article incorporates text from the ARKive fact-file "Common box turtle" under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and the GFDL.

Citations

  1. ^ van Dijk, P.P. (2011). "Terrapene carolina". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2011: e.T21641A97428179.
  2. ^ "Appendices | CITES". cites.org. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  3. ^ Fritz Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World" (PDF). Vertebrate Zoology. 57 (2): 198. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  4. ^ Fritz 2007, p. 196
  5. ^ Dodd, pp. 24–30
  6. ^ a b c d Capula, M. (1990). The Macdonald Encyclopedia of Amphibians and Reptiles. London: Macdonald and Co Ltd.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Ernst, C. H.; Altenbourgh, R. G. M.; Barbour, R. W. (1997). Turtles of the World. Netherlands: ETI Information Systems Ltd. Archived from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d van Dijk, P.P. (2011). "Terrapene carolina". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2011: e.T21641A97428179.
  9. ^ "NatureServe Explorer 2.0". explorer.natureserve.org. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  10. ^ Alderton, D. (1988). Turtles and Tortoises of the World. London: Blandford Press.
  11. ^ a b Halliday, T.; Adler, K. (2002). The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  12. ^ Wood, Gerald (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9.
  13. ^ "Nature Serve".
  14. ^ "CITES". CITES.
  15. ^ "Eastern Box Turtle – North Carolina State Reptiles". North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  16. ^ Shearer 1994, p. 321
  17. ^ "Official State Symbols of North Carolina". North Carolina State Library. State of North Carolina. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
  18. ^ "Tennessee Symbols And Honor" (PDF). Tennessee Blue Book: 526. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  19. ^ "State Symbols of Missouri: State Reptile". Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnihan. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  20. ^ "Kansas Quick Facts". Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  21. ^ "Ornate Box Turtle State Symbols USA". statesymbolsusa.org. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  22. ^ "Regular Session 2009–2010: House Bill 621". Pennsylvania State Legislature. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  23. ^ "SB 1504 Eastern Box Turtle; designating as official state reptile". Virginia State Legislature. Archived from the original on 16 January 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  24. ^ "Virginia House crushes box turtle's bid to be state reptile". NBC Washington. Associated Press. 20 February 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2011.

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Common box turtle: Brief Summary

provided by wikipedia EN

The common box turtle (Terrapene carolina) is a species of box turtle with six existing subspecies. It is found throughout the Eastern United States and Mexico. The box turtle has a distinctive hinged lowered shell (the box) that allows it to completely enclose itself. Its upper jaw is long and curved.

The turtle is primarily terrestrial and eats a wide variety of plants and animals. The females lay their eggs in the summer. Turtles in the northern part of their range hibernate over the winter.

Common box turtle numbers are declining because of habitat loss, roadkill, and capture for the pet trade. The species is classified as vulnerable to threats to its survival by the IUCN Red List. Three U.S. states name subspecies of the common box turtle as their official reptile.

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cc-by-sa-3.0
copyright
Wikipedia authors and editors
original
visit source
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wikipedia EN