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Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins of Louisiana

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Louisiana has abundant wildlife, including reptiles such as snakes and turtles. All are welcome in Yvonne's backyard wildlife habitat.

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Ancient Group of Reptiles

Louisiana is blessed with thirty species of turtles, tortoises and terrapins. The body form of this ancient group of reptiles has changed little in the 200 million years of its existence. Besides various freshwater and land turtles, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, along the coastal parishes, host five different species of sea turtles.

In this series of articles, we will introduce you to many of the turtles that inhabit Louisiana's land and waters and will also include book recommendations so that you may learn more about this ancient reptile.

Ancient Chelonia

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General Description of Turtles

Turtles are an ancient group of reptiles. The most remarkable thing about most turtles is their unique exoskeleton which is composed of an upper shell, the carapace and a lower shell, the plastron. Epidermal scutes cover the shell. These are shed periodically. Underneath them are bony plates fused to the underlying ribs and vertebrae.

There are two families which inhabit Louisiana that are not arranged in this way. They are the soft-shelled turtles (Trionychidae) which have a leathery skin and little bony plate development and the marine leatherback (Dermochelys) which has a leathery skin with a mosaic of small bones (the osteoderms) underneath.

Turtles have no teeth. Their jaws are covered by keratinous tissues called the tomium, which may have toothlike projections.

All turtles lay eggs on land. The eggs may be leathery or hard shelled. Fertilization is internal.

Diets vary with some species being carnivores, some herbivores and some omnivores.

Turtle Poll

Snapping Turtle

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Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtles have strong jaws which they use to capture prey. The old folks say that once they grab you, they won't let go until it thunders. Many species live to be over a 100 years old.

Eastern snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina serpentina

Alligator Snapping Turtle, Macrochelys temminckii

Alligator Snapping Turtle

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Mud Turtles

Mississippi Mud Turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis

Razor-backed Musk Turtle, Sternotherus carinatus

Stripe-necked Musk Turtle, Sternotherus minor peltifer

Striped neck musk

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Musk turtles emitt and unpleasant odor when disturbed, hence the common name "stink pot".

Common Musk Turtle, Sternotherus odoratus

Common Musk

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Photo references for the pictures above include the Stripe-necked Musk Turtle from University of Georgia and the Common Musk Turtle from chelonia.org.

Map and Other Freshwater Turtles

Southern Painted Turtle, Chrysemys dorsalis

Southern Painted

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I'm afraid that these may have gotten their common name because of how they taste.

Eastern Chicken Turtle, Deirochelys reticularia reticularia

Western Chicken Turtle, Deirochelys reticularia miaria

Western Chicken Turtle

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Pascagoula Map Turtle, Graptemys gibbonsi

Pascagoula Map Turtle

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Ringed Map Turtle, Graptemys oculifera

Ringed Map Turtle

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Most map turtles have beautifully patterned shells.

Ouachita Map Turtle, Graptemys ouachitensis ouachitensis

Sabine Map Turtle, Graptemys ouachitensis sabinensis

Mississippi Map Turtle, Graptemys pseudogeographica kohnii

River Cooter, Pseudemys concinna

Red-eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans

Female Slider Laying Eggs

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More Info About Red-Eared Sliders

  • Red-eared Slider Turtle of Louisiana
    Red-eared Slider turtles were popular pets in the 1950s to '70s. This page has many photographs of these attractive reptiles living in their natural habitat and also information about their habits.

Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin pileata lives in the brine water along the Gulf Coast.

Diamond-back Terrapin

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River Turtles Poster

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River Turtles by naturegirl7 on Zazzle was taken in the Tchefuncte River near Covington, Louisiana where many species of freshwater turtles dwell.

Photo references for the pictures above include the Southern Painted Turtle and the Pascagoula Map Turtle as well as the Ringed Map Turtle, and the Mississippi Diamond-back Terrapin . More information can be found there for each.

Turtles on Log Solar Light with Lizard Friend Enjoying the Sunny Spot

Turtles on Log Solar Light with Lizard Friend Enjoying the Sunny Spot

Turtles on Log Solar Light with Lizard Friend Enjoying the Sunny Spot

Turtles on a Log Solar Light

My favorite solar garden light! By day, the three little turtles decorate our garden, near the pond. Then at night, their shells glow golden to light the way. I love these little guys and so would the turtle lover on your list. The solar panel recharges the led light during the day so they glow all night.

Box and Other Land Turtles

Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina

Eastern Box Turtle

One reader thought that this was a subspecies.

One reader thought that this was a subspecies.

Eastern Box Turtle - 2 Subspecies

Gulf Coast Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina major

Three-toed Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina triunguis

Three-toed Box Turtle

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Three-toed box turtle photo is public domain.

Ornate Box Turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata

Ornate Box Turtle

More About Box Turtles

  • Box Turtles of Louisiana
    Through the years we have rescued many box turtle. This page has many photographs and much information about the box turtles of Louisiana including Eastern box turtle subspecies and the Ornate.

Florida Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus

Florida Gopher Turtle

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More About Gopher Tortoises

  • Gopher Tortoises in Louisiana
    Besides the Common Box Turtle, another land turtle, the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), inhabits our area in Southeastern Louisiana. These reptiles are uncommon and are on the federally protected list in Louisiana, Mississippi and western...

Turtle Encounters Poll

Eastern Box Turtle

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Softshell Turtles

Softshell turtles look almost other worldly. Unlike most other turtles, the body covering is more like rough skin.

Midland Smooth Softshell, Apalone mutica mutica

Smooth Softshell

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Gulf Coast Smooth Softshell, Apalone mutica calvata

Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell, Apalone spinifera aspera

Pallid Spiny Softshell, Apalone spinifera pallida

Texas Spiny Softshell

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Saving the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Video

Protect Sea Turtles

Sea turtle numbers are down. We must protect them before they disappear forever.

Sea turtle numbers are down. We must protect them before they disappear forever.


"Protect Sea Turtles" by GreenNeighbor on Zazzle.

We should all try to do our part to protect the majestic sea turtles.

Sea Turtles Book Nature Mall

Sea Turtles Book Nature Mall

Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast U.S.

Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States
Written by two of the Southeast's foremost authorities on sea turtle conservation, this is an accessible, fully illustrated guide to the species that frequent the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. No one who encounters a sea turtle soon forgets it. The leatherback, for instance, can grow to huge proportions, commonly approaching eight feet in length and more than half a ton in weight. Powerful swimmers, they are also among the deepest divers of all air-breathing sea creatures. Despite these assets, the survival of the leatherback, like that of all sea turtle species, is under constant threat from commercial fishing operations, overdevelopment of nesting grounds, pollution, and predation by introduced species. The guide opens with comprehensive coverage of the sea turtle's evolution, juvenile and adult life cycles, nesting, diet and feeding, disease and parasites, predators, and conservation issues. Each subsequent chapter is dedicated to a particular turtle species.

Loggerhead

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Caretta caretta

Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas

Green Sea Turtle

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Atlantic Hawksbill, Eretmochelys imbricata imbricata

Kemp's Ridley, Lepidochelys kempi

Leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea

More About Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles

  • Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle in Louisiana
    Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles are the most critically endangered of all sea turtles and are currently on the Endangered Species list. These gentle reptiles are known to nest only along the coast of Mexico and recently, Texas. Besides having a limited...

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Underwater - May they continue to swim so peacefully

Baby Turtle Toddler Costume

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Such a happy little turtle. Show some turtle love with this darling costume on Halloween, Mardi Gras or book character dress-up.


Don't crawl away without leaving a comment.

Ann on October 17, 2019:

If it is safe to pull over, do so. Move the turtle across the road in the direction it was heading.

Mike and Dorothy McKenney from United States on August 15, 2017:

Great, interesting article. I absolutely love turtles, especially when I'm able to assist them while they are crossing a road. Thanks!

Sherry on August 11, 2015:

My husband found a baby turtle when we had horrible rain for several weeks. I think she must be a hatchling that washed up out of the ground. That was 3 months ago. We have been feeding her worms and fruit. My husband built a house for her. She's thriving and has become attached to me, and vise versa! I have searched the internet, but can't find a turtle that really looks like her. Can I send u a picture to see if you could identify her species?

Capt. Bebop on November 09, 2014:

I stop and move it to the side of the road it was headed to. Otherwise it will try to cross again

Tom Christen from Switzerland/Ecuador on July 25, 2013:

What a great lens! Thank you so much for sharing! So informative and interesting! Very good! Keep going...

suepogson on June 03, 2013:

Shells like jewels -I love them. So pretty! I hope their environment can be better protected. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on May 19, 2013:

@anonymous: Cool and congratulations. Gopher tortoises are becoming uncommon in Louisiana.

anonymous on May 19, 2013:

watching a gopher tortoise lay eggs in our yard this evening - 5/19/13

anonymous on May 19, 2013:

wa1tching a gopher tortoise lay eggs in our yard this evening - at least I Id'ed her as a gopher tortoise

5-19-13

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on March 27, 2013:

I don't really have a favoitire turtle. They do all look pretty similar. I guess I pretty much liked the small turtles who used to come share my chips (french fries to many of you) when I lived in Australia. We don't get turles in the UK, I don't think. Not wild anyway. Maybe a few pets released into the wild which have survived. An i teresting lens though.

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on March 27, 2013:

I don't really have a favoitire turtle. They do all look pretty similar. I guess I pretty much liked the small turtles who used to come share my chips (french fries to many of you) when I lived in Australia. We don't get turles in the UK, I don't think. Not wild anyway. Maybe a few pets released into the wild which have survived. An i teresting lens though.

RaintreeAnnie from UK on January 15, 2013:

What a wonderful page on tortoises and turtles! I love them and it was interesting learning more and love all the pictures of them too. Angel Blessed :)

Aunt-Mollie on January 07, 2013:

What a wonderful, in-depth article. Liked!

waihou on December 06, 2012:

So cute, these animals!

Thamisgith on November 19, 2012:

Amazing lens. Love the various photos and illustrations.

We don't really have turtles here in Scotland, but we spent a couple of years in Brazil and the pond at the local park was full of them. My kids used to love the way that they would swim over to you and bob up and down waiting for you to throw them food.

SharpLee on November 01, 2012:

I love tortoises and turtles! Great lens! I hope to keep improving my California desert tortoise lens.

TurtleLoverGirl on October 12, 2012:

very interesting... have never seen those smooth soft shell turtles before and I love the baby costume! ;-)

CoffeeDude LM on September 21, 2012:

What a great lens! I never realized the diversity of the turtle community. Beautiful pictures.

supersiva on August 12, 2012:

Wow so many beautiful turtles at one place - thanks for sharing them

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on June 16, 2012:

@anonymous: Thanks for the comment. You may be right. The turtle in the first box turtle picture (by naturegirl7) was "rescued" from a damp classroom aquarium in an elementary school. We released it on our 9 acres. It didn't quite fit all the identification marks, but I thought it safe to classify it as an Eastern Box turtle. It was such a handsome one.

The teacher said that it came from SC or another state in that area of the U.S. Sadly, it did not live but for a year or so after release. I think the months it spent in that aquarium eating "turtle food" weakened it.

anonymous on June 15, 2012:

Nature girl, I think you have a three toed box turtle judging by the coloration of the head, or perhaps a hybrid of a three toed and an ornate, It it is not an eastern box turtle, which tend to have yellow mottled heads and larger blotches of yellow on the shell. There are numerous hybrids due to people carrying these creatures across country and then letting them go and almost all subspecies of terrapene interbreed in captivity.

CherylsArt on June 09, 2012:

I learned something. I had never heard of a soft shell turtle before. Interesting lens.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on May 28, 2012:

@PlethoraReader: Thank you so much. I'm glad you took away something... and both the turtles and I thank you for your kind blessing.

Matthew from Silicon Valley on May 25, 2012:

Great information here, will have new appreciation when I see my next title. Blessed.

looniestlove lm on May 24, 2012:

great lens about turtle, very informative and educational, very helpful as well, thanks for sharing

livingfrontiers on April 19, 2012:

Great lens on turtles...love the photos and the detail on each one!

MelonyVaughan on April 01, 2012:

What a beautiful lens! Thanks for sharing!

anonymous on February 18, 2012:

love turtles. beautiful lens..........

Inkhand on December 11, 2011:

Love your lens, it reminds me of a poem by Anders GJ Rhodin:

âTortoises in the mist

timeless creatures, moisture-kissed

neath shrouded trees and mossy lace

since eons past, still exist.

On crater rim, a magic place

tortoises move, at their pace

from caldera floor below

ponderous steps, gentle grace.

Ringed by fire, lava flows

spared the whalersâ deadly blows

survive serene, Alcedo home

enchanted isles, Galápagos.â

CelebStyle LM on October 15, 2011:

Great lens! Informative and loved all the pictures.

Ben Reed from Redcar on October 15, 2011:

Really enjoyed my visit.

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on August 13, 2011:

We have a 22 year old tortoise. love turtles.

pimbels lm on June 18, 2011:

A great lens, thank you.

pawpaw911 on May 01, 2011:

Just did a lens on the Fly River Turtle, and thought I would check out some other turtle lenses, since I am a newbie. Nice Lens.

Blackspaniel1 on March 13, 2011:

Outstanding

Francis Luxford from United Kingdom on January 26, 2011:

Lovely images and a great lens!

River88 on December 20, 2010:

Your photos are beautiful, especially the baby costume one, how cute! You've provided so much information and done it very well. Thank you.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on November 13, 2010:

Great photos! I laughed when I saw the baby costume. What a cute idea.

poppy mercer from London on September 27, 2010:

They are gorgeous, and this lens is wonderfully made. congratulations on your purple.

JewelRiver on September 25, 2010:

Nice touch with the turtle outfit for babies! I love turtles!! Great pics.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on September 22, 2010:

Congratulations on the purple star.

kimmanleyort on September 21, 2010:

This is such an important and well-done lens. It needs more visitors!

norma-holt on April 22, 2010:

Fantastic lens and well crafted with lots of superb information and pictures. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

ElizabethJeanAl on January 04, 2010:

Turtles are fascinating creatures. Sea turtles are my favorite.

Thanks for sharing

Lizzy

pkmcr from Cheshire UK on December 31, 2009:

What a fantastic and incredibly informative lens and that turtle costume at the end made me laugh out loud - thank you! Blessed by a Squid Angel :-)

natureplanet on December 19, 2009:

nice site. as a child living in Nairobi we had a giant tortoise in our garden and us kids could ride around on it. i will always remember that!

bdkz on November 13, 2009:

Beautiful lens!

Patricia on November 08, 2009:

I love turtles especially sea turtles!

Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on October 31, 2009:

We all need to stick our heads out of our shells and look around at all the wonderful creatures that live just outside our door. Thank you so much for sharing the turtles, tortoises and terrapins of Louisiana.

Sojourn on August 28, 2009:

Wow! They're actually kind of cute. :) And I had no idea there were so many different kinds of turtles. Their shells are quite amazing pieces of art when you see such a number of them together. Nice job!

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on August 17, 2009:

Absolutely superb! Blessed by an Angel today (squidoo.com/more-angel-blessings)

Lloyd Pinto from Mumbai on August 12, 2009:

Really cool lens about turtles. 5* and a fave!

Mickie Gee on August 11, 2009:

Really informative lens about turtles. I have a lens about how some animals should not be pets because they can make you ill. How do you feel about turtles as pets?

Light-in-me on August 11, 2009:

This lens is beautiful and interesting, The pictures are wonderful and you provided so much great information.

Great job !

Robin

Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on August 11, 2009:

Beautiful lens...very well done and I love all those pictures...5*s!

oneskms on August 09, 2009:

Very nice lens

Mihaela Vrban from Croatia on August 08, 2009:

Beautiful use of colors - brown and green go well together! Love those little turtles... they are cute!

luvmyludwig lm on August 07, 2009:

beautiful lens. I love turtles!

ctavias0ffering1 on August 07, 2009:

Very nicely done lens, well worth 5*