Painted Turtle

Painted TurtlePainted Turtle — The Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) is a reptile that is common in North America,southern Canada, and northern Mexico and is a water turtle related to other water turtles such as sliders and cooters. This turtle lives in ponds, lakes, marshes, and in slow-moving rivers that have soft, muddy bottoms. The maximum carapace size, or shell length, for painted turtles is 10 inches, or 25 cm. Its shell is used to protect it from its predators. The underside, or plastron, of the Painted turtle’s shell has a beautiful design that (hence the name) looks like it is painted. The plastron can be solid yellow, mostly yellow with a pattern in the center, or may be a complicated pattern of yellow and red. There are yellow or red lines on the painted turtle’s head, and limbs. The skin tone of the painted turtle varies from olive green to solid black. The Painted Turtle is the only species in the genus Chrysemys. It comprises 4 sub-species.

Painted turtles are most active from March to October. During the winter painted turtles hibernate by burying themselves deep in the mud beneath streams and ponds. The mud insulates the turtle which, helps prevent freezing during the harsh winter months. The turtle may submerge itself in up to .9 meters (3 ft) of mud under less than 1.8 meters (6 ft) of water. Painted turtles can survive without oxygen at 3° Celsius (37.4°F) for up to five months, longer than any other known air-breathing vertebrate. In order to survive during hibernation, the turtle must prevent lactic acid from building up in its body. The turtle accomplishes this by slowing its metabolic rate, which in turn lowers the rate of lactic acid production. It then uses magnesium and calcium stored in its shell to buffer and neutralize lactic acid. Northern populations of painted turtle may remain dormant for four to six months. More southerly populations may become active during warm periods. When emerging from a dormant period, most turtles will not begin to eat again until the water temperature has reached approximately 15.5° Celsius (60°F).

The painted turtle spends the majority of its time in the water, but it can often be seen lying in the sun on floating logs or on rocks by the shore. This behavior is called basking. Some turtles bask simply by floating on the surface of the water. Painted turtles bask because they cannot generate heat or regulate their own body temperature. Instead, they rely on heat from the sun to maintain their body temperature for them. Basking episodes generally last for two hours at a time. Basking must be done cautiously, as overheating can kill a turtle within minutes.

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