Turtles of TN - Natural History

  1. Range: Statewide, common

    Habitat: Varied, prefers soft mud bottoms in warm, shallow areas with abundant vegetation

    Behavior: Relatively docile in water, aggressive on land; raise bodies high off ground. Spend 3-4 hrs submerged at a time, bask but less than other aquatic turtles. Colonize new areas readily.

    Diet: Varied incl. fish, frogs, invertebrates, waterfowl, and carrion.
    Common Snapping Turtle – Chelydra serpentina
  2. Range: Western TN, relatively rare

    Habitat: slow-moving or still water 

    Behavior: Non-aggressive but will defend if provoked; gapes. Very rarely found on land or basking.

    Diet: Primarily live fish
    Alligator Snapping Turtle – Macrochelys temminckii
  3. Range: Western and extreme SE TN, common where it occurs

    Habitat: variety of shallow, still to slow-moving aquatic/wetlands 

    Behavior: Can close up in shell completely. Walks along bottom more than swims. Rarely basks but will wander over land and has been observed crossing roads.

    Diet: Primarily crustaceans, mollusks, other aquatic inverts but sometimes plant material
    Eastern Mud Turtle - Kinosternon subrurum
  4. Range: Only eastern TN (uncommon), but common elsewhere (further south)

    Habitat: Mostly large spring runs, creeks, and small rivers

    Behavior: Highly aquatic, crawls along bottom; goes ashore only to nest but occasionally crawls up cypress knees or snags to bask. Discharges musky excretion upon capture. Communal nests together in sand.

    Diet: Juveniles - primarily insects; adults - snails and clams
    Loggerhead Musk Turtle – Sternotherus minor
  5. Range: Statewide, common

    Habitat: shallow, slow-moving, muddy-bottomed aquatic environments (many habitats)

    Behavior: Secrete foul smelling musk when distrurbed and bites. Rarely basks, not likely to be encountered on land.
    Diet: Invertebrates, fish, and carrion
    Stinkpot (Common Musk Turtle) - Sternotherus odoratus
  6. Range: Statewide, locally common

    Habitat: mostly ponds and shallow lakes; unusually high tolerance for pollution

    Behavior: Basks frequently, often in large numbers on logs in water. Not common to find on land but can travel from one body of water to another.

    Diet: aquatic insects and plants, some fish
    • Northern Painted Turtle and Southern Painted Turtle
    • - Chrysemys picta and C. dorsalis
  7. Range: Northeastern corner of TN, rare

    Habitat: isolated bogs (in TN)

    Behavior: Usually buried, seldom seen; occasionally basks.

    Diet: Mostly insects/invertebrates but some plant material
    Bog Turtle - Glyptemys muhlenbergii
  8. Range: Statewide except extreme western, uncommon but locally common elsewhere.

    Habitat: mostly larger streams, rivers, and lakes 

    Behavior: has been seen walking about under ice after cold spells. Basks commonly on logs in water, very uncommon to encounter on land

    Diet: mostly aquatic invertebrates
    Common Map Turtle – Graptemys geographica
  9. Range: only Mississippi River & tributaries, uncommon to locally common

    Habitat: large rivers and Reelfoot Lake

    Behavior: Very shy, drops into water quickly if disturbed. Basks frequently on logs and limbs angled out of water. Rarely encountered on land except to nest.

    Diet: Primarily mollusks and insects, some plant material
    False and Ouachita Map Turtlea – Graptemys psuedogeographica and G. ouachitensis
  10. Range: Statewide, common

    Habitat: moderate to large streams w/ moderate currents

    Behavior: Cannot swallow out of the water. Basks frequently but rarely encountered on land (except to nest)

    Diet: Aquatic plants
    Eastern River Cooter - Pseudemys concinna
  11. Range: Statewide, common (one of most abundant)

    Habitat:Variety incl. rivers, ditches, sloughs, lakes/ponds; prefers quiet, permanent waters with a muddy bottom and lots
    of vegetation for basking 

    Behavior: Frequently basks, often stacked. Not very shy. Occasionally found on land when nesting or moving to other areas

    Diet: Varied incl. aquatic plants, insects, fish, and carrion. Adult females largely herbivorous, young adult males mostly carnivorous.
    Slider - Trachemys scripta
  12. Range: Statewide, uncommon & declining

    Habitat: varied terrestrial - woodlands, pastures, meadows, gardens

    Behavior: Can close up in shell completely. Slow moving, diurnal, occurs almost exclusively on land.

    Diet: Varied incl. fruit, snails/slugs, worms, insects, mushrooms, and flowers
    Eastern Box Turtle – Terrapene carolina
  13. Range: Statewide, uncommon (locally common elsewhere)

    Habitat: large rivers w/ soft substrates

    Behavior: Buries in mud, extremely fast in the water. Less likely to bite when handled. Basks occasionally. Rarely encountered on land.

    Diet: Aquatic invertebrates, some fish, amphibians, and plants
    Smooth Softshell Turtle - Apalone mutica
  14. Range: Statewide, fairly common

    Habitat: streams and rivers w/ soft substrates
    Behavior: Buries in mud, extremely fast in the water. Basks occasionally. Rarely encountered on land. Courtship display involves waving webbed feet, extending neck, and shaking head

    Diet: mostly fish and invertebrates
    Spiny Softshell Turtle - Apalone spinifera
Card Set
Turtles of TN - Natural History
For TN Tech's Herpetology class.