Eastern box turtle

Latin Name
Terrapene carolina




This turtle is typically 4.5 inches in length and weights 1–2 pounds. Females are larger than males. Males have red eyes; females have yellow-brown eyes.
The carapace (top shell) is brown with yellow markings while the plastron (bottom shell) is lighter, with a hinge one-third of the way back. Juveniles' shells don't harden until approximately the sixth year. During this period, they hide much of the time.



Eastern United States.


Listed as near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Usually found in forest underbrush or among open fields associated with marshes.


The speices is generally omnivorous, preferring green vegetation, mushrooms, snails, earthworms and grasshoppers. Juveniles are more carnivorous than adults.
They are solitary, diurnal (active during the day) and terrestrial. During winter they dig or burrow beneath the frost line and hibernate.

Life History

Females lay their eggs in late spring–early summer. They can be fertile up to four years after mating. Between two–seven eggs hatch after 12–13 weeks under normal climate conditions. The hatchlings are relatively mobile from birth

Special Adaptations
  • The bony shell provides protection from predators and injury.
  • A hinged plastron allows for complete shell closure.
  • Thick scales on the head and limbs protect against injury.
  • A sharp beak acts like shears for slicing vegetation.
  • Long claws aid in crawling through the underbrush and digging nest holes or winter shelter.
  • Column-like legs support the body weight while walking; the shell bottom supports body at rest.
  • Camouflage coloration prevents detection by possible predators.
  • Long, flexible skin on the "turtleneck" allows head to stretch out or tuck in. Neck vertebrae form an "S" shape to pull head in, straighten to push head out.

ARKive Media

ARKive image - Young Florida box turtle, <i>T. c. bauri</i> ARKive video - Common box turtle - overviewARKive image - Florida box turtle, <i>T. c. bauri</i>

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