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Field Guide to Turtles


By: Rebecca Hildreth

Table of Contents


  • Introduction                                    Page 1
  • Explaining the Turtle Family      Page 2
  • Eastern Box Turtles                      Page 3
  • Diamondback Terrapin                Page 4
  • Loggerhead Sea Turtles                Page 5
  • Green Sea Turtles                          Page 6
  • Reevea Turtle                                 Page 7
  • Texas Map Turtle                          Page 8
  • Must See Pictures                         Pages 9-11    
  • Observing Observations              Page 12
  • About the Author                          Page 13




     Throughout this field guide, you will learn about six different types of turtles. You will also learn the classifcation of tutles from domain to family about turtles in general. This field guide will take you from someone who just thinks all turtles are the same to someone who can tell the differnce between some turtles, and show you the truth behind the shell.   


Page 1

Page 2

Turtles are reptiles with a shell that is used for protection. They live in almost every type of climate all over the world. They have webbed feet and a stream like body used in their underwater life. Turtles varies greatly in size, so there is not really a set size or weight. They are omnivores and eat everything from small fish to algea. They are completely harmless to human beings.

Explaining the Cheloniidae Family


Domain- Eukaryotic

Kingdom- Animal

Phylum- Chordata

Class- Reptile

Order- Testudiness


        Eastern, or comman, Box Turtles are native to the eastern coast of the United States, mostly Virginia. They are found where there is moisture, but they live on land. Another species of that lives in the same area is the Gulf Coast Box Turtle. Once they have settled into one place, they don't move long distances away from their home. These turtles tend to stay in the same general area of their home. In the summer, the females start to nest and lay three to eight eggs.

       When you are wondering whether or not a turtle is an Eastern Box Turtles, look for these different characteristics. They have a hinged dome shell that they use for protection purposes. Also, they are dark brown or olive colored with bright markings of orange and yellow. Their beak in turned down. The Eastern Box Turtle are generally eight inches long. Males have red eyes, and females have yellowish-brownish eyes.

      One very interesting fact about these amazing turtles is that their hinged dome shells provide special protection, because when they are inside their shells they can tighten the hinge to keep the predators from getting in their shell. Some of their predators are minks, skunks, raccoons, dogs, and rodents. Their prey is slugs, snails, earthworms, wild strawberries and blackberries, mushrooms, insects, and dead animals like ducks and frogs.  


Binnomial Nomenclature- Terrapene carolina



Eastern Box Turtles

          Diamondback Terrapins live in eastern and southern United States along with the Eastern Box Turtle (even though they live more towards the coasts). They live in the swamps of this area. These turtles live to be between 25 and 40 years old. The mating season for the Diamondback Terrapin is May through July. The females lay eight to twelve eggs which hatch in August. Only one to three oercent of the eggs layed live to hatch. The gender of the turtle is determined by the tempature while they are waiting to hatch. If the tempature is high, the egg will hatch to be a female. If the tempature is low, the eggs will hatch to be a male.

      When looking at a turtle and wondering whether or not it is a Diamondback Terrapin, look at these characteristics to help identify if is a Diamondback Terrapin. The top of it's shell is light brown, gray, or black and yellow or olive on the bottom. There are diamond-shaped markings on the shell of these turtles, and their skin is covered in dark spots or stripes. The Daimondback Terrapin has heavily webbed feet, muscular legs, and they are strong swimmers. Females are on average are 7.5 inches long and 1.5 pounds. Males are on average 5 inches long and 5 pounds. The females sgell can get to 12 inches wide and males can get to 6 inches wide.

      An interesting fact about these unique turtles is they are the symbol of the state Maryland. When the eggs first hatch, they have many predators such as crabs, crows, seagulls, herons, rats, muskrats, foxes, raccoons, skunks, and minks. Once they become adults, their main predator is raccoons. Their prey is fish, snails, worms, clams, crabs, and marsh plants.

 Binomial Nomenclature- Malaclemys terrapin

Diamondback Terrapin

         Loggerhead Sea Turtles are found in worldwide waters. They are the must abundent sea turtles in the United States. The average life span of these turtles is 50 years. Females nest on the beachs, most likely the beach they hatched on and call home. They lay  100 to 200 eggs. Like the Diamondback Terrapin, the gender of the baby turtles is based on what the tempature it is when the turtle is getting ready to hatch. High tempatures equal females and low tempatures equal males.

         When trying to identify a Loggerhead Sea Turtle, look for these characteristics. They have massive, heartshaped heads and strong jaws. These turtles have reddish-brown shell tops and yellow shell bottoms. The baby turtles have dark grey or brown shells with dark brown flippers with white edges and a light yellow bellies. The males have thicker, longer tails, females have thinner, shorter tails. The average male is three feet long and 250 pounds.

        These turtles can swim at speeds of 15 miles per hour. They are also endangered because of mass pollution. They eat jellyfish, conchs, crabs, fish, and seaweed. Their predator is sharks, but when they are babies, their predators are raccoons, birds, reef fish, and sharks.

Binomial Nomenclature- Caretta caretta


Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtles

         Green Sea Turtles live in tropical and subtropical waters all over the world. They swim close to the surface of the water to stay warm, so most likely you will see them in shallow water and extremely close to the suface for sea turtles. These turtles mate every 2-4 years, and the females lay anywhere from 100 to 200 eggs at a time. The average lifespan of the Green Sea Turtle is about 80 years.

        When identifying a Green Sea Turtle, look for these characteristics. They have wide, smooth shells that are brown or olive colored. The Green Sea Turtle has green skin (hints the name Green Sea Turtle) and scales right in front of their eyes. They have small heads, but they weigh up to 700 pounds.

        Like the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, they are endangered. They population of the nesting female turtles is about 85,000 to 90,000. They eat seagrasses, algea, crabs, jellyfish, and sponges. Their predators are sharks, because they are one of the only animals big enough to eat them. The babies are threatened by seagulls, crabs, and raccoons on the way to the ocean from their nest, as well as sharks when they get into the ocean.

Binomial Nomenclature- Chelonia mydas

          Reeves Turtles live in central and eastern China, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. they live in ponds, lakes, and streams. They breed in spring to midsummer, and the females lay between two and six eggs. These turtles have a shorter lifespan than most turtles at 20 years. 

          There are a few thing that are essential to identifying these turtles. They have a rectangular shaped body. Also, they are only 6 inches long at the most. Their shells are a yellowish to brown color and sometimes even a shade of black. Their bodies are and olive to green color or, like the shell, can be a shade of black. One key thing to look for is the yellow line going down their head and neck. 

        Reeves Turtles eat worms, small fish, insects, and green leafy vegetables. Since they are mainly pets, dogs and cats are great predators in household, but the ones that do roam wild some predators include possums and raccoons. One Interesting thing abou these turtles is whenever they age the birght coloring starts to fade, and by the time they are close to 20 years old they are just black. 

Binomial Nomenclature- Mauremys reevesii

Reeves Turtles

           Texas Map Turtles live in southern United States, mainly in the Texas area (hints the name Texas Map Turtles). The female turtles lay two to eight eggs at a time. The gender the egg will hatch to be is determined by the tempature. Higher tempatures means females, and lower tempatures means males. The average lifespan of Texas Map Turtles is 15 to 100 years.

         Texas Map Turtles have oval shells with a row of knots going down their backs. The shells are olive to brown colored. They have horizontal lines between their eyes. They have narrow heads and webbed feet. In order to distinguish between males and females look at their length. Males are between three to five inches, and females are four to nine inches. Also, males have longer tails.

       They eat insects, worms, fish, snails, shrimp, crickets, grasshoppers, and lettuce. Since they are mosty house pets, and you will hardly ever find them in the wild, their main predators are cats and dogs. These turtles are excellent swimmers and like their water as deep as possible.

Binomial Nomenclature- Graptemys versa

Texas Map Turtles

Must See Pictures

Must See Pictures

Must See Pictures

         When scientist observe things, they focus very carefully making sure that they don't miss a single asspect of the thing they are observing. It is important they do this, because it lessens the chance of  them miss an impotant characteristic. When classifying organisms, scientist are exceptional careful not to miss a caracteristic of the organism, because they realize if they do they could misclassify the organism. If it were for the careful observations we make, the world would be a jumbled up mess.

Observing Observations

About the Author

        Hi, I am Rebecca Hildreth, a 7th grade student at Putnam County Middle School in Eatonton, Georgia. I was orginally born in Mobile, Alabama where I lived until I was six years old. Now I live my life happily in the small town of Eatonton. My wonderful science teacher, Mrs.Holloway helped me with this project, so I owe a big thanks to her.