Spotted Turtle
Clemmys guttata
Population size
Life Span
26-50 years
cm inch 

The spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata ), the only species of the genus Clemmys, is a small, semi-aquatic turtle that reaches a carapace length of 8–12 cm (3.1–4.7 in) upon adulthood. Their broad, smooth, low dark-colored upper shell, or carapace, ranges in its exact colour from black to a bluish black with a number of tiny yellow round spots. The spotting patterning extends from the head, to the neck and out onto the limbs. Sexually mature males have a concave plastron and a long, thick tail. By contrast, sexually mature females possess a flat plastron and have a tail notable shorter and thinner than mature males. Mature males also have a dark iris and face; females typically have a yellow or orange iris and a similarly coloured face that is distinctly lighter than males. Juveniles appear female-like in this regard and at maturity males begin to develop darker features.

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Spotted turtles are aquatic omnivores that inhabit a variety of semi-aquatic or in other words, shallow, fresh-water areas such as flooded forests, marshes, wet meadows, bogs and woodland streams in southern Canada (Ontario) and the eastern US: the eastern Great Lakes and east of the Appalachian Mountains.

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Generally solitary


Not a migrant




starts with


The Spotted turtle is a small, semi-aquatic turtle found in North America. Its upper shell (carapace) is smooth and does not have a central ridge running down the middle (called a "keel"). It is also totally black in color and contains anywhere from zero to about one hundred yellow spots, which are a defining characteristic of this turtle. The bottom shell (plastron) is yellow or orange-yellow and a black spot is present on each section (scute); however, with age, melanism of the plastron increases until the entire surface is black. On each side of the head there is a large orange blotch. Skin on the dorsal side of the turtle is black with sparse yellow spots while skin on the ventral side may be brighter: orange, pink, or red. These lightly pigmented areas do vary geographically and the tail of some individuals has yellow striping.



Spotted turtles range from southern Maine, Quebec, and Ontario, south along the eastern US to Florida in the east and central Indiana and Ohio in the west. Disjunct populations exist in the Canadian portion of their range and also in central Illinois, central Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Indiana. Spotted turtles inhabit swamps, bogs, fens, marshes, woodland streams, and wet pastures. Also, brackish streams that are influenced by tides can also serve as a home to these turtles in addition to ditches, vernal pools, and sedge meadows. Preferred habitat includes shallow and slow-moving waters with soft muddy soil, sedge tussocks, water lilies, sphagnum moss, and cattails.

Spotted Turtle habitat map

Climate zones

Spotted Turtle habitat map
Spotted Turtle
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Habits and Lifestyle

Spotted turtles are semi-aquatic creatures. They can be decidedly terrestrial, spending a good amount of time on land and sometimes basking on patches of grass near their body of water. During the nesting periods, the females travel onto land and lay eggs on sunny soil. In winter and in hot summer, Spotted turtles become inactive during environmentally unfavorable conditions. However, they may be quite tolerant of drought conditions. Spotted turtles do become active very early in the spring, and are often active at relatively cold water temperatures during that season. Activity usually peaks during April and May in the northern part of the range. In the warmest part of the summer (when water temperatures exceed 30 °C), they may aestivate on land or in the water for long periods of time. During summer dormancy, the turtles may burrow into leaf litter in woodlands or marsh edges or open fields; others remain in muskrat burrows or other aquatic refuges. Spotted turtles are generally solitary, however, they can be seen in small groups when basking or in good feeding areas and usually hibernate communally. These turtles are active hunters and search for prey in the water by pointing their heads into aquatic plants. They eat exclusively in the water. Due to their size, these small turtles are highly vulnerable to predation, particularly during their frequent terrestrial wanderings and many of them have mutilation injuries and scars from past predation attempts. When sensing danger or surprised while basking they dive into the water and bury themselves in the bottom mud.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Spotted turtles are omnivores. They eat plant material including aquatic vegetation, green algae, and in at least one instance, wild cranberries. Animal food includes aquatic insect larvae, worms, slugs, millipedes, spiders, crustaceans, tadpoles, salamanders, and small fish.

Mating Habits

77 days
11 weeks
at birth
3-7 eggs

Spotted turtles breed between March and May. Females lay 3-7 eggs in a nest which they dig in moist soil or san usually in a sunny location. The young hatch about 11 weeks later; they are able to care for themselves at birth and become reproductively mature between 7 and 15 years of age.


Population threats

Habitat destruction and alteration, illegal collection for the pet trade, and other human impacts such as vehicle mortality (cars and mowers) are the main threats to Spotted turtles. They are also very sensitive to pollution of the water bodies where they feed and spend most of their time.

Population number

There is no overall population estimate available for the Spotted turtle. According to IUCN Red List, this species occurs in small localized populations and these population sizes range from 30-1,205 individuals. According to Wikipedia resource, the total population size of the Spotted turtle in Canada is approximately 1,000-2,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Visual differences between male and female Spotted turtles develop when they reach the age of reproductive maturity. The male has a tan chin, brown eyes, and a long, thick tail. The chin of the female is yellow; she also has orange eyes and a shorter tail than the male. In addition, the bottom shell of males is concave while it is either flat or convex in females. On average, females are slightly larger than males and females also have more spots than males (on average).
  • The spots on Spotted turtles vary greatly throughout their range. They can have up to a hundred spots, while some have no spots at all.
  • Because Spotted turtles are so often found in areas that contain duckweed, their yellow spots may serve as a form of camouflage.
  • Spotted turtles may sometimes nest near man-made dikes or the nest of a muskrat.
  • The Spotted turtle is one species whose gender is determined by temperature during embryonic development.
  • Spotted turtles are very intelligent creatures; they have been tested in mazes and have been proven to have the brain capacity of a mouse.


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

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