Yellow-bellied slider turtle (Trachemys scripta)

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Red-eared slider ssp. elegans close up of head, captive
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Yellow-bellied slider turtle fact file

Yellow-bellied slider turtle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderTestudines
FamilyEmydidae
GenusTrachemys (1)

The distinctive markings of the yellow-bellied slider turtle (Trachemys scripta) make it very popular in the pet trade (1). It has conspicuous yellow stripes on its head, neck and limbs, and a striking yellow, red or orange spot either side of the head (2). The oval carapace of the yellow-bellied slider turtle is olive to brown, with yellow stripes or bars (3). The plastron is yellow and usually has single dark blotches on each bony plate (2).

Three subspecies are recognised: Trachemys scripta scripta, Trachemys scripta troostii and Trachemys scripta elegans. The coloured markings on the shell, body and head vary between subspecies (1) (2).

The male yellow-bellied slider turtle is usually smaller than the female and has a long, thick tail. The male will also become darker as it matures. In some subspecies, the male has elongated, curved claws on the front feet (2) (4).

Also known as
common slider, Cumberland slider turtle, red-eared slider turtle, slider.
Synonyms
Chrysemys scripta, Emys cumberlandensis, Emys elegans, Emys troostii, Pseudemys scripta, Testudo scripta.
Size
Male carapace length: up to 24 cm (1)
Female carapace length: up to 29 cm (1)
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Yellow-bellied slider turtle biology

The yellow-bellied slider turtle is an opportunistic omnivore, feeding on a wide range of animals and plant matter. Food preferences change as the yellow-bellied slider turtle matures, with the juvenile having a predominantly carnivorous diet, and the adult feeding mainly on aquatic plants (2)

The yellow-bellied slider turtle can live up to 30 years. The male matures between two to five years, and the female matures between five to eight years. The female can produce up to 3 clutches per year, laying between 5 and 20 eggs which hatch after an incubation period of between 60 to 91 days (1). Eggs are laid in jug-shaped nests, dug in soft, damp soil in open, unshaded areas. Females may travel over a kilometre from the water to find a suitable nesting site (2).

In the European populations, reproduction in the wild is rarely successful, although egg laying behaviour has been observed. However, successful breeding may occur in southern European counties where the summers are warmer (2).

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Yellow-bellied slider turtle range

The yellow-bellied slider turtle is native to eastern and central North America. This species has been introduced into other parts of North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and is becoming increasingly abundant in many countries outside its native range (1).

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Yellow-bellied slider turtle habitat

The yellow-bellied slider turtle can be found ina wide range of freshwater habitats, rivers, ditches, swamps, lakes and ponds. It prefers shallow, slow-flowing waters with abundant aquatic vegetation to feed on, soft bottom substrates and plenty of basking sites (1) (5).

The yellow-bellied slider turtle tends to hibernate underwater or in more secluded and protected places near edges of the waterline (6).

In Mexico, the yellow-bellied slider turtle is normally found in river habitats. In Europe, this species can be found in most freshwater habitats, generally near human populations (1).

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Yellow-bellied slider turtle status

The yellow-bellied slider turtle is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Yellow-bellied slider turtle threats

The yellow-bellied slider turtle is widespread and common, and is not considered endangered. However, certain populations may be threatened by habitat loss, pollution and collection for the pet trade (1).

Trachemys scripta elegans is considered to be one of the 100 top invasive species in the world, and has been introduced to many countries through the pet trade. Introduced populations of the yellow-bellied slider turtle compete with local turtle species for food, nesting and basking sites. These populations may also carry new parasites, which threaten native species such as the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) (5).

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Yellow-bellied slider turtle conservation

No conservation measures are known to specifically target the yellow-bellied slider turtle, but this species occurs in a number of protected areas (1).

The importation of Trachemys scripta elegans into Europe has been banned by the European Union, but this ban does not apply to the two other subspecies. Proper education into the responsibilities of keeping the yellow-bellied slider turtle as a pet, and disposal methods for unwanted pets, are needed to stem the invasive threats posed by the yellow-bellied slider turtle (1).

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Find out more

For more information about the yellow-bellied slider turtle:

For further information on reptile conservation: 

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Carapace
The top shell of a turtle or tortoise. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head), also known as the ‘cephalothorax’.
Carnivorous
Feeding on flesh.
Hibernate
Hibernation is a winter survival strategy in which the animal passes the winter in a resting state. This period of inactivity is characterised by specific biological and biochemical changes including lowered blood pressure and respiration rate. In reptiles, this is also known as brumation.
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Omnivore
An organism that feeds on both plants and animals.
Parasite
An organism that derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism at the host’s expense.
Plastron
The lower shell of a turtle or tortoise.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. NOBANIS - Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet: Trachemys scripta (August, 2011)
    http://www.nobanis.org/files/factsheets/Trachemys_scripta.pdf
  3. el Din, S.B. (2006) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  4. Lovich, J.E., Garsta, W.R. and McCoy, C.J. (1990) The development and significance of melanism in the slider turtle. In: Gibbons J.W. (Ed.) Life History and Ecology of the Slider Turtle. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
  5. Global Invasive Species Database  - Trachemys scripta elegans (August, 2011)
    http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=71&fr=1&sts=&lang=EN
  6. Ernst, C.H. and Barbour R.W. (1989) Turtles of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
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Image credit

Red-eared slider ssp. elegans close up of head, captive  
Red-eared slider ssp. elegans close up of head, captive

© Johan de Meester / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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