Coastal Plain cooter

(Pseudemys concinna floridana)


The Coastal Plain cooter is a large aquatic turtle reaching a maximum carapace length of 15.6 inches. The shell is highly elevated, with the highest point in the middle. The carapace (upper shell) is usually light to dark brown, with complex, light-colored concentric markings. The plastron (lower shell) is light yellow with no greenish tint, and there is usually no dark plastral pattern. The arms and legs are dark brown with yellow stripes. Juveniles have not been collected in Virginia. This species may be easily confused with the red-bellied turtle, Pseudemys rubriventris, which has reddish vertical stripes on the carapace, a reddish plastron, and a prominent cusp on each side of the notched upper jaw. The river cooter, Pseudemys concinna, is so similar to P. floridana in Atlantic slope drainages that characteristics used to tell these species apart elsewhere are not useful in this region. The Coastal Plain cooter is diurnal and inactive at night. It frequently basks on logs and stumps. It moves onto land only for nesting and to move from one body of water to another. Nesting occurs in May and June. The female lays 12-20 eggs which are ovate-elliptical, with soft shells and a pinkish-white, slightly granular surface. Incubation is usually 80-150 days.


This species is found south of the James River from the Dismal Swamp west to the Fall Line. It inhabits permanent bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, big swamps, marshes, and rivers with abundant aquatic vegetation. Areas with slow current, soft bottoms, and abundant basking sites are necessary. This species prefers bodies of water with abundant aquatic vegetation and places to bask, such as logs and dirt banks.


As adults, this species is predominately herbivorous, consuming a wide variety of aquatic plants. Juveniles are carnivorous, probably preying on aquatic insects and insect larvae.