Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) - Wiki
Terrapene carolina carolina
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[Photo] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo
The Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is a subspecies within a group of hinge-shelled turtles, normally called box turtles. T. c. carolina is native to an eastern part of the United States. Occasionally, it is referred to as the Common Box Turtle to distinguish it from the other five subspecies of eastern box turtles.
Eastern box turtles have a high, dome-like shell and a hinged plastron that allows total shell closure. The carapace can be of variable coloration, but is normally found brownish or black and is accompanied by a yellowish or orangish radiating pattern of lines, spots or blotches. Skin coloration, like that of the shell, is variable, but is usually brown with some yellow, purplish or white spots or streaks. The color of the shell and skin of an eastern box turtle differs with age; younger turtles of the type are often more vibrantly colored than the older. Furthermore, males normally possess red eyes (irises) whereas females usually display brown eyes. Eastern box turtles feature a sharp, horny beak, stout limbs, and their feet are webbed only at the base. Staying small in size, males grow to up to seven inches, and females to about eight. In the wild, box turtles are known to live over 80 years, but in captivity, usually live only between 30-50. Virtually all turtles have a covering of scutes, or modified scales, over the bony shell. The number,size,form,and position of these scutes can help in identifying the turtle. Only in the soft-shelled turtles and leatherback sea turtles are obvious scutes absent, leaving skin to cover the bones. The shell covering the back of the turtle is the carapace. It is more or less arched or domed. The ventral or belly shell, called the plastron, is flat, although in males of some species it is concave to help the male fit over the back end of the female's carapace during mating. In some species the front and back of the plastron are connected by flexible points or hinges. When in danger, the turtle is able to close the plastron by pulling the hinged sections closly against the carapace, effectively sealing the soft body in bone. Eastern box turtles have many uniquely identifying characteristics which separate them from North American tortoises and water turtles. The most obvious differentiating characteristic of the box turtle is its shell. The shell is made of bone covered by living vascularized tissue and covered with a layer of keratin. This shell is connected to the body through its fused rib cage which makes the shell permanently attached and not removable. The box turtle plastron is special in that it articulates in a way that allows the turtle to completely protect its limbs, head and tail by closing the anterior portion of the plastron and the carapace. When injured or damaged, the shell has the capacity to regenerate and reform. Granular tissue slowly forms and keratin slowly grows over the damaged area to replace damaged and missing scutes or scales. Unlike water turtles such as the native eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), box turtle scutes continue to grow throughout the turtle's life and develop growth rings. Water turtles typically shed their scutes as they grow.
Maine and the northwest of the Michigan Lower Peninsula, south to southern Florida and west to eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The eastern box turtle is considered uncommon to rare in the Great Lakes region; however, populations can be found in areas not bisected by heavily traveled roads. In the Midwest, they are a species of Special Interest in Ohio, and of Special Concern in Michigan. Eastern box turtles prefer deciduous or mixed forested regions, with a moderately moist forest floor that has good drainage. They can be also found in open grasslands, or pastures.
Behavior & diet
The eating habits of eastern box turtles vary greatly due to individual taste, temperature, lighting, and their surrounding environment. Unlike warm-blooded animals, their metabolism doesn't drive their appetite, instead, they can just lessen their activity level, retreat into their shells and halt their food intake until better conditions arise. In the wild eastern box turtles are opportunistic omnivores and will feed on a variety of animal and vegetable matter. There are a variety of foods which are universally accepted by eastern box turtles, which include earthworms, snails, grubs, beetles, caterpillars, grasses, fallen fruit, berries, mushrooms, flowers, and carrion. Studies at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Maryland have also shown that eastern box turtles have fed on live birds that were trapped in netting. Many times, they will eat an item of food, especially in captivity, just because it looks and smells edible, such as hamburger or eggs even though the food may be harmful or unhealthy. Box turtles are also known to have consumed poisonous fungi making their flesh inedible by native American hunter gatherers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that hatchling box turtles are more carnivorous than their sub adult and adult versions. There is as yet no concrete evidence to support this theory.
Thousands of box turtles are collected from the wild every year for the domestic pet trade, especially from Texas, the Carolinas, and Arkansas. The eastern box turtle is protected throughout most of its range but many states allow the capture and possession of box turtles for personal use. Although the United States has banned their export, some box turtles still end up in the Asian food market. Captive breeding is fairly commonplace, but not so much that it can supply the market demand. Although box turtles may make hardy captives if their needs are met, and are frequently kept as pets, they are very difficult to keep owing to their many requirements. Eastern box turtles require high humidity, warm temperatures with vertical and horizontal thermal gradients, suitable substrate for burrowing, and full spectrum ultraviolet lighting that mimics sunlight. A basking area at one end of the enclosure is important to offer the turtle the ability to warm itself and is critical to sexually mature males and females for development of sperm and egg follicles respectively. Eastern box turtles are semi aquatic in the wild and love to immerse themselves completely in water. Therefore, a large, easily accessible water dish for bathing and drinking is important to their health. Water should be fresh and clean and available at all times. Because box turtles seldom get the nutrients they need to foster shell growth and skeletal and skin development, they also may require vitamin supplements to keep them healthy such as calcium, vitamin a, and folic acid. Captive diets include various live invertebrates such as crickets, worms, earthworms, grubs, beetles and larvae, cockroaches, small mice, and fish (not goldfish). Mixed berries, fruit, romaine lettuce, collard greens, dandelion greens, chicory, mushrooms and clover are suitable for box turtles as well. While some high quality, moist dog foods may be occasionally offered, whole animals are preferable. Reptomin is a suitable food for hatchling and immature/subadult box turtles.
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