Red-eared Slider

ZOO LOCATION: Scutes Family Gallery

Lifespan: Up to 30 years

Wild Diet: Omnivores; fiberous water plants, small invertebrates

Zoo Diet: Floating turtle chow, fish, crickets, mouse pinkies

Predators: Small mammals and raptors


IUCN Status: Least Concern

Habitat/Range: Found in streams, rivers and lakes of the Southeastern and mid-western United States.

Characteristics: Skin is green with bright yellow stripes. Patch of red behind each eye gives it its common name. Webbed feet and strong claws. Wild females reach maturity later, between 5-7 years (5 in.) in length; in captivity, females may reach maturity at about 3 1/2 years. Males are smaller than females in overall body size but have longer tails and very long front claws used when courting females. Range from 5 1/2 up to 12 in. in length. Sliders have poor hearing but are very sensitive to vibrations, making it hard to sneak up on them. Name, slider, comes from the fact they are quick to slide off of rocks, logs or the banks if danger threatens. Shell is actually made up of its ribs joined together and covered with a thin layer of skin. Shell is made of jigsaw-like sections called scutes, which grow at the edges, allowing the turtle to increase in size without outgrowing its shell.

Behavior: Almost exclusively aquatic.Turtles have keen close-up eyesight and can distinguish colors. Mouth cavity is used like a gill. Water is drawn in and oxygen is absorbed and water expelled. Feet have thick nails for shredding food and digging in the mud. Between-toe webbing facilitates swimming. Deceptively fast and excellent swimmers. To chew it uses sharp cutting edges inside its mouth which are moved by strong jaw muscles. Throughout the day they will climb out of the water, bask until dry and warm, then dive back in to wet themselves and cool off, and then climb out to bask again. It is common for sliders to bask together and even stacked on top of each other. In northern areas, turtles hibernate over the winter at the bottom of ponds or shallow lakes. Will tolerate other small animals in their habitat, but will quickly dive underwater when approached by potential predators, making them difficult to catch.

Reproduction: When the temperature rises in the spring, male begins courting by tickling female's neck with his claws. His claws help him grip the female carapace for mating. Courtship can take up to 45 minutes, but the mating itself usually takes 15 minutes. Sometimes a male will appear to be courting another male. This is actually a sign of dominance and the males may begin to fight. Juveniles may display the courtship dance, but until the turtles are five years of age, they are not mature and are unable to mate. Courtship and mating activities usually occur between March and July, and take place underwater. A female might lay anywhere from two to twenty eggs. One female can lay multiple clutches of eggs during one mating season. The eggs will hatch 80-85 days after they have been laid. The hatchling (1 in.) will cut open the egg with an "egg tooth" which falls out an hour after hatching and never grows back. Can live more than 30 years.

Conservation: Red-eared Sliders are the turtles best known for being sold in pet stores here in the U.S. and abroad. Much of their current habitat comes from being released as pets. Releasing pets, like these turtles, to the wild can damage the environment, and the survival rate of that pet may be low as well, especially depending on their ability to adapt to a very different environment and find food. Native species also suffer with the increased competition for resources.