Eastern Painted Turtles or Chrysemys picta picta are among the four subspecies of the Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta).Their colorful body with yellow and red stripes or blotches reminds of a hand painted canvas. Hence the name ‘Painted Turtles’ has been coined for them.Both the scute and the skin is designed with red and yellow stripes while the plastron color ranges between yellowish to orange with a central pattern of red orange, yellow or dark gray hue while the color of the skin ranges between olive green to black.
They love to stay mostly inside the water but basking in the sun is the favorite pastime too to keep their hypothermic body warm. They are shy and are difficult to capture.
Like other Painted Turtles, their Vomeronasal Organ (Jacobson’s Organ) helps them to detect pheromones.
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Eastern Painted turtles are generally carnivorous. Though the young ones prefer to eat fish, worms, tadpoles, mollusks, insects etc, the adults normally include some foliage in their diet. Interestingly, they never consume food above water.
Late spring to early summer that is between March and June is the breeding season for the Eastern Painted Turtles. Mating occurs underwater and starts in the cold atmosphere or during the fall, just after the hibernation period gets over.
Males attain their maturity for breeding after attaining three to five years of age and 70-95 mm length of the plastron while females need to become 4 to 5 years and a little larger in size.
Their elaborate and graceful mating ritual can rarely be seen in the wild. The male swims around the female while stroking and fondling her head and neck occasionally. If the female responds by stroking his limbs, it proves her assertion.
They are amniotes and crawls to the land for nesting within 200 meters of water in search of soft and sandy soil, which receives good sunshine too. They use their hind feet to dig up 10 to 12 centimeters deep to make the nest.
Each nest contains clutches of 2 to 20 eggs. Hatchlings emerge out after about 2 and half months. Incubation temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. Females are produced at 870 F or above temperature while males are formed at 770F or less temperature. At about 840F, both male and female Eastern Painted Turtles are formed.
The hatchlings emerge out by breaking the shell with the help of an ‘egg-tooth’ which falls within a few days.
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