Trachemys scripta elegans
Status: Least Concern
Range & Habitat
Red-eared sliders are native to the Mississippi River Valley, Virginia, from Illinois west to Kansas and Oklahoma and south to the Gulf of Mexico; however, they have been introduced all over the world. They prefer quiet water with a muddy bottom and abundant vegetation, but they are also rarely found in moving waters. They can frequently be seen basking on rocks, logs, vegetation masses and on banks.
The Red-eared Slider is considered one of the best known turtles and can be easily identified by its red or yellow patch behind the eye. Males are much smaller than females, but have longer claws which are used during mating/courtship. Red-eared sliders communicate mostly through touch and vibrations; they also have a good sense of vision. Sliders will sleep at night underwater, usually resting on the bottom or floating on the surface, using their inflated throat as a flotation aid. Sliders become inactive at temperatures below 10 degrees C. They will often hibernate underwater or under banks and hollow stumps. Emergence occurs in early March to late April.
They can survive up to 40 years in the wild, but most live only 30 years. Approximately 70% die as hatchlings. Opossums, raccoons, skunks and foxes all prey on hatchlings; however, once the sliders reach maturity they are safe from most predators. Humans exploit these turtles for food and the pet trade.
Reproduction & Growth
Courtship involves a unique dance where the male will approach the female from the front, stretch out his front feet and vibrate his claws on the female's head or neck. The female will continue to swim forward while the male does this until she is receptive, then she will sink to the bottom for mating. Mating usually occurs from March to July. The female can produce up to three clutches a year, laying 4-19 eggs at a time in a shallow hole, 10 inches wide on shore. By burying the eggs, they have some protection from predation and are incubated at soil temperature. The eggs will hatch 60 to 75 days later, usually from July to September, but they can spend the winter months in the nest and hatch in the spring. Young turtles break through the egg using an "egg tooth" called a caruncle that disappears soon after hatching. Maturity occurs in males at 3-5 years and 5-7 years in females.
In the Wild: Young sliders tend to eat 70% animal matter and 30% plants, but adults eat 90% plant matter and 10% animal matter. Sliders tend to eat underwater in the early morning or late afternoon. Their diet may include aquatic insects, snails, tadpoles, crawfish, fish, crustaceans and mollusks. They also eat plants like arrowhead, water lilies, hyacinths and duck weed. In the Zoo: Greens, vegetables, and small amounts of animal matter (fish, insects, chicken, beef).