European Pond Turtle

European Pond Turtle

European pond terrapin, European pond tortoise

Emys orbicularis
Population size
Life Span
40-100 years
cm inch 

The European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) is a species of long-living freshwater turtle in the family Emydidae. The species can be found only in the Western Palearctic.


The carapace of this species is dark brown to blackish in color, with a hint of green. The head and legs are spotted with yellow. The plastron is yellowish. The turtle has a long tail and webbed feet, which are adaptations for swimming.

Climate zones

European Pond Turtle habitat map
European Pond Turtle
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Habits and Lifestyle

European pond turtles are usually considered semi-aquatic; their terrestrial movements can span 1 km (0.62 mi), and they are occasionally found traveling up to 4 km (2.5 mi), away from the water. European pond turtles are social and live in small groups. During the day they are often seen basking for many hours on stones, logs, or banks. If disturbed they quickly return to the water where they scan the area with just the nose and eyes that emerge above the surface and often hide in floating vegetation. These turtles can remain underwater for many hours before they return to the surface. During cold months of the year, pond turtles hibernate burring themselves in the mud, and usually appear only in late spring.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

European pond turtles are carnivores (piscivores, insectivores) and mainly feed on fish, snails, frogs, salamanders, crabs, and aquatic insects. They may also supplement their diet with aquatic plants.

Mating Habits

spring-early summer
90-100 days
at birth
8-10 eggs

European pond turtles breed between spring and early summer. Females lay their eggs on land, typically near a water body. Once the location of the nest is established, females spend time constructing the nest, laying the eggs, and closing the nest which can take up to another 4 hours. The clutch contains 8 to 10 eggs and the incubation period lasts approximately 90-100 days. Once the eggs are laid the females bury their nests and leave; they don't participate in raising their young. Baby turtles hatch fully developed; they are independent at birth and become reproductively mature at 5-6 years of age.


Population threats

European pond turtles have become rare in most countries even though they are widely distributed in Europe. The building of roads and driving of cars through natural habitats is a possible factor that threatens the populations of the European pond turtle. Road networks and traffic often carry complex ecological effects on animal populations such as fragmenting natural habitats and creating barriers to animal movement. Mortality on the road is most likely due to females selecting nests near roads which places a potential danger for the hatchlings as well. Hatchlings that wander too close to roads are more likely to be killed and put the future population in danger. The climate also has an effect on the survival of European pond turtle hatchlings. The young are only able to survive under favorable weather conditions, but due to regular annual clutch sizes and long lifespan, adult European pond turtles, along with many freshwater turtles, balance out the loss of hatchlings due to climate. Introduced exotic species such as Yellow-bellied slider and Red-eared slider, known commonly as Florida turtles, also put in danger the native pond turtle species in many parts of Spain (and possibly in other parts of southern Europe), since these exotic turtles are bigger and heavier than the native pond turtles.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the European pond turtle total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.


1. European Pond Turtle on Wikipedia -
2. European Pond Turtle on The IUCN Red List site -

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