There are twelve primary varieties of box turtle, and each one is completely different from the others. We’ll learn more about the Common, Eastern Florida, Gulf Coat, Three-toed, Mexican, Yucatan, Coahuilan, Spotted, Western, Ornate, and Desert box turtle varieties today. We’ll examine their differences, similarities, and the reasons why they make such wonderful pet turtles.
Despite the fact that not all tortoises are turtles, all turtles are tortoises, did you know that? It’s time to discover more about these amazing creatures, who are thought to have existed for 200–250 million years, concurrently with the emergence of dinosaurs.
What Do The Types of Box Turtle Have in Common?
Box turtles may close their rounded shell like a box, which is how they got their name. In order to shield themselves from predators, they can pull their head and legs within. They can close themselves firmly thanks to their belly’s hinge.
Their eyes are somewhat set to the side of the head and are directed downward. Although box turtles have good vision both during the day and at night, its shell limits their ability to see peripherally.
They are able to locate food, a partner, and a territory thanks to their keen sense of smell. Box turtles, on the other hand, have poor hearing. They have a covering of skin behind the eyes on either side of the head in place of external ears.
Box turtles like locations close to shallow, enduring bodies of water. Because they can’t swim well, these turtles live their whole lives on land. However, they do prefer to reside close to water and in humid conditions. They enjoy wetlands, marshes, and swamps as their habitat.
Although adults frequently travel outside into more open places, they also like regions with dense foliage where they may hide.
Let’s look at native box turtles now that that is over!
Eastern Box Turtle
Of all box turtles, the eastern one has the largest range. They may be found all the way up into portions of New England, from far northern Florida towards Georgia. From the east coast all the way to the Mississippi River, they can be found.
Box turtles are reclusive, seldom seen creatures. I have spent my whole life in Tennessee, yet the amount of times I have unintentionally encountered an eastern box turtle can be counted on one hand.
The shell of an eastern box turtle is dark brown or black with patterns in yellow or orange. They will also have comparable yellow patches or blotches on their skin. Box turtles only grow to a maximum size of 5-7 inches, yet they can live for up to 100 years or more.
Asian Box Turtles (Overview)
The group of Asian Box turtles, which are indigenous to portions of Southeast Asia, including China, Indonesia, sections of India, and the Philippines, consists of 12 subspecies.
Asian Box turtles of the Cuora genus often have three distinct keels on their domed, reddish to brown or sometimes black shells. In many instances, the keels will have vivid stripes running along them in hues like yellow, orange, and sometimes even white.
The majority of Asian Box turtles are omnivores and may live on land, in semi-aquatic environments, or in the water. Sadly, they are the turtle species that are traded the most globally. Both in the pet trade and as a source of food, they are used.
Florida Box Turtle
With the exception of the panhandle, this is the most prevalent of the four subspecies of the common box turtle in Florida. They live a large portion of their time underground or in the bushes. They really go into a condition of immobility from November to February called brumation (the reptilian version of hibernation).
It’s challenging and rare to find one in the wild due to its propensity for hiding and lack of movement. The summer months are the greatest since the heat and humidity make a good habitat for them.
The hinged plastron on the Florida Box turtle’s thin, tall, domed shell allows it to be closed very firmly to ward against predators. Due to its characteristic yellow stripes on its back, as shown in the image above, this subspecies of box turtle is the most easily recognized.
These turtles may be found all around Florida, including in the Keys and on the barrier islands in the Gulf. Additionally, they have a range that reaches into southeast Georgia.
Western Box Turtle
In the United States, wide grasslands and wooded environments are home to Western Box Turtles. They enjoy soft, easy-to-burrow dirt, and they like to hide behind boards, porches, and other man-made structures.
Western box turtles will consume nearly anything that fits in their jaws!
Insects, earthworms, crayfish, other reptiles, especially tiny snakes, bird eggs, carrion, berries, melon, leaves, and other reptiles are among the dietary items they eat. They have even been observed looking for bugs in cow droppings!
Western Box woman When it comes to reproduction, turtles possess a special talent. They can only mate once with a male turtle, but they can safely store the fertilized eggs inside of them for more than two years! They then deposit the eggs at the ideal time of year and climate.
Gulf Coast Box Turtle
The Gulf Coast box turtle, the biggest subspecies of the box turtle, has one of the shortest home ranges. Only the Gul Coast, particularly in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle, is home to this species.
Box turtles from the Gulf Coast have yellow markings on their dark brown to black shells. Like other box turtles, this one has a domed, thin shell that is hinged and can be closed quite securely.
This subspecies may be found living from Florida to Louisiana along the Gulf Coast. Although Mississippi and Alabama both have extremely short coastlines, that range really only encompasses two states, despite the fact that it officially spans four.
Chinese Box Turtle
Chinese Box turtles may be found in portions of Taiwan, Japan, and central China. The bottom body edges of these lovely semi-aquatic turtles are noticeably yellow. They have dark brown, strongly domed shells with yellow keels and keel stripes.
The omnivorous Chinese Box turtle typically consumes fruits, vegetables, mollusks, and worms. They like warm, humid subtropical conditions with high humidity. These energetic turtles enjoy digging burrows in the ground to stay moist.
Three-Toed Box Turtle
Due to the three claws on their rear legs, three-toed box turtles receive their name. They live in the south-central states of the United States and like meadows, forests, and grasslands. They are regarded as one of the best subspecies to keep as pets since they are more adaptable than the majority of box turtles.
They seldom have highly colored patterns on their high-domed, brown or olive carapaces. However, some males have markings on their heads or necks that are red, orange, or yellow. Insects, mollusks, worms, and plants make up their food.
A subspecies of the Eastern Box turtle called the Three-toed Box turtle is found in the Central and Southern regions of the United States. The state reptile of Missouri is the Three-toed Box turtle. These turtles can adapt well to environmental changes and favor grassy habitats like meadows as well as woods.
The carapaces of three-toed box turtles have high domes and are often brown or olive in color. As their name suggests, they also have three rather than four claws on their rear legs. Their plastrons have a golden tint. Omnivores, three-toed box turtles consume a variety of things, including plants, mollusks, worms, and insects.
In the eastern United States, there is just the Gopher Tortoise.
Gopher Tortoises inhabit sandy locations where it is simple to burrow into the ground. As long as the plants are readily available, they eat a range of plants as scavenger herbivores.
The threat of a dwindling population of gopher tortoises is brought on mostly by human development of their environment.
In an effort to safeguard this species, you could even see Gopher Tortoise Crossing signs! It is forbidden to move gopher tortoises without the consent of Fish and Wildlife services in the United States, and laws and regulations restrict property development near where they live or where their burrows are located.
Because of its extensive burrowing in the sandy soil of its environment, the gopher tortoise is regarded as a Keystone Species. Up to 360 additional species make use of these shelters. Most notably, Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes and Gopher Tortoises frequently share burrows!
Malaysian Box Turtle
The Southeast Asian box turtle, commonly referred to as the Amboina box turtle, has a local subspecies called Malaysian Box turtles. Regions of Indochina, such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, are home to this specific subspecies.
The Malaysian Box Turtle prefers warm, humid climates with tropical habitats. Compared to other Southeast Asian Box turtles, they have dark brown shells with less black spot markings. Additionally, compared to their relatives, Malaysian Box turtles have smaller, shorter tails.
Although these turtles can endure some very harsh environments, they are sadly endangered. Box turtles from Malaysia are omnivores, however older animals tend to consume more plant material.
Mexican Box Turtle
A bigger subspecies, the Mexican box turtle measures 7 to 8 inches. They resemble three-toed box turtles in terms of look; they have a brown shell that occasionally includes yellow markings as well as yellow or red patches on the sides of the face.
They are indigenous to Mexico, as their name suggests. Since the Mexican box turtle is protected by export regulations, they are not frequently kept as pets.
Desert tortoises can tolerate extreme heat and little rain where they inhabit in the United States’ dry regions. For digging burrows, they prefer solid ground, and they also utilize boulders as cover. Their tunnel entrances feature a distinctive half-moon form.
This tortoise lives nearly all of its life underground, saving water and energy, and only emerging to feed and reproduce. It can withstand ground temperatures as high as 140 °F! In fact, the Desert Tortoise is one of few animals that can survive Death Valley’s intense heat and dearth of rain.
The desert tortoise is a “indicator species,” meaning that its population health can reveal the state of an environment. Unfortunately, this species’ habitat is seeing a severe reduction in numbers. Urbanization, off-road vehicle usage, mining, and natural predation are causes of this loss as well as the demise of many desert species.
Coahuilan Box Turtle
The Box turtle species most in risk of extinction is the Coahuilan Box turtle. In the Mexican state of Coahuila, they are native to the region around the city of Cuatro Cienegas. The Coahuilan Box turtle is nearly entirely aquatic, in contrast to practically all other Box turtles.
Box turtles from Coahuila have unmarked, dark brown to black shells. Their shells may hold a lot of algae because they spend most of their lives in the water. They are opportunistic omnivores that live in springs in the desert of their tiny area.
Yucatan Box Turtle
It was formerly believed that the Yucatan box turtle was a distinct species all on its own. Even by natives, this subspecies, which is unique to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, is rarely seen. The male Yucatan box turtle may grow to a length of 6 inches and occasionally has a white face.
Ornate Box Turtle
The ornamental box turtle is a stunning and vibrant animal. Their dark brown or black shells have a peculiar design that looks like a sequence of yellow to orange stripes. A large portion of the central and western United States is home to the Ornate Box turtle, the state reptile of Kansas.
Mostly terrestrial, ornate box turtles enjoy wide-open environments like grasslands or prairies, especially in the Great Plains area. These omnivorous, nocturnal turtles spend a large portion of their time hunting for food. Although they have very narrow home ranges, current population declines are a result of habitat destruction and the pet trade.