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red-eared slider

(Trachemys scripta elegans)


This is a freshwater turtle ranging between 5-8 inches (record=11-3/8 in). The most distinguishing characteristic for this species is an elongated, broad red stripe behind the eyes. This is fainter in females and may be completely obscured in hatchlings. The carapace (upper shell) is a yellowish-green with yellow stripes running vertically down the pleural scutes. They also have black blotches on the plastron (lower shell) and horizontal yellow stripes on the rear of the thighs. The males of this species are subject to melanism which turns the entire turtle black as it ages. Mating will occur in any season but summer. Nesting probably occurs April-July. Sliders in general are frequent baskers who pile on top of each other if “hauling out” sites are few. They are very wary and will slide into the water at the slightest provacation.


Established populations of T.s. elegans are known in several areas of Virginia, especially near the larger urban areas of Fairfax and Richmond. No natural populations have been found north of the York-James peninsula.


This species is omnivorous as adults and mostly carnivorous as juveniles. They have been known to eat the following: tulip tree seeds, nuscadine grapes, freshwater mollusks, and beetles. Other items include algae, insects, crayfish, tadpoles, fish, and carrion.