University of Massachusetts Amherst

Massachusetts North American Amphibian Program

Spotted Turtle

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Herp Atlas 1992-1998 Survey

  • The map below shows the distribution of the Spotted Turtle in Massachusetts based on the original intensive volunteer survey that took place from 1992-1998.
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Updated Distribution Map

Clemmys guttata (3.5-4.5”)

Spotted Turtle
Spotted Turtle
Spotted Turtle

The Spotted Turtle is a small black turtle with yellow spots. The upper shell (carapace) is smooth. The lower shell (plastron) is yellow to yellow-orange with large black blotches on each scute (scale). In older individuals, the entire plastron may be black. The skin is usually gray to black with yellow spots on the upper neck and limbs. The skin on the lower surface of the limbs can have an orange, pink or salmon-red coloration. Males and females can be distinguished by looking at a number of different characteristics. Males have brown eyes, while females have orange eyes. Males have slightly concave plastrons, while females have flat or convex plastrons. The tails of males are thicker and the vent (the common orifice through which the contents of the digestive, reproductive and urinary systems are discharged) on the tail in males is located beyond the edge of the carapace. Hatchlings typically have one spot per scute, the head is always spotted, and the tail is longer relative to the body size, compared to adult Spotted Turtles.

Spotted Turtles may use multiple wetlands over the course of their activity season and they are often found within wetland complexes. Spotted Turtles overwinter in a variety of wetland types ranging from forested swamps to emergent wetlands and wet meadows. Upon emergence from hibernation, Spotted Turtles often move overland to vernal pools where they forage and may mate. Females will remain in wetland or vernal pool habitat until they begin nesting. All other

Spotted Turtles may remain in a vernal pool until it dries up, at which point they will move to a different vernal pool or wetland or begin aestivation, a period of dormancy or reduced activity during the summer. Terrestrial habitat use can occur anytime during the Spotted Turtle activity season when individuals move between different types of habitat.
Spotted Turtles are omnivores, eating both plant and animal matter. They primarily eat while in the water, unlike other turtle species such as the Wood Turtle which eats both on land and in the water. The plants that

Spotted Turtles consume are aquatic grasses and filamentous green algae. The animal matter that is eaten, either alive or as carrion, includes aquatic insect larvae, small crustaceans, snails, the tadpoles of frogs and toads, mole salamanders, and fish. Vernal pools are an important source of many of these prey items.

Courtship and mating occur in the spring. Nesting occurs in June in open areas such as upland fields with well-drained loamy or sandy soils. Clutch sizes range from 1-8 eggs. Spotted Turtles have temperature-dependent sex determination. At cooler incubation temperatures, males are produced, while at warmer incubation temperatures females are produced. Hatchlings emerge in the late summer or fall, or may overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring.

Adapted from the MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program’s “Massachusetts Forestry Conservation Management Practices for Spotted Turtles, Version 2007.1

 

 

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