Red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) derive their name from the red mark behind their eyes and the ability to slide quickly into water. This turtle was also known as ' Troost's Turtle', after the famous American herpetologist (a zoologist who studies reptiles and amphibians), Dr. Gerard Troost. These turtles are native to the southern United States, and are also known by the name of 'Red-Eared Terrapin', in the United Kingdom.
They are green with irregular yellow stripes. The carapace or the oval-shaped top shell that is more flattened in males, has serrated edges. Sometimes, the carapace of these turtles may be darker in color as compared to the head, legs and the tail. The bottom shell or the plastron is yellow-colored with patches of a darker color. Older males may be darker in color with fading yellow lines and no red mark behind the eyes, which is the distinguishing feature of red-eared slider turtles. They may be dark gray or olive-green in color. The body length of these turtles range between 8 to 10 inches in males and the females are 10 to 12 inches long.
Diet and Behavior
Red-eared sliders feed on both plants and animals. While the juveniles prefer small creatures, their older counterparts tend to eat more plants. Other than aquatic plants, their diet includes fish, crayfish, carrion, tadpoles, snails, crickets, wax worms and aquatic insects. They prefer to live in quiet, slow-moving waters with muddy bottoms and plenty of aquatic plants. These turtles are found in both fresh water and brackish waters. Even though, they are aquatic creatures, these turtles are commonly found on logs and rocks, basking in the sun. Red-eared slider turtles are sometimes found stacked upon one another, while basking.
They are very quick in hiding themselves from predators by diving into the water. It has also been observed that these turtles are very fast swimmers. Apart from enjoying the sun, they come out of the water to lay eggs. It is believed that sunlight is beneficial in preventing some bone diseases in them. Hence, it is very important to provide sufficient ultraviolet light for these captive turtles. At night, they rest at the bottom of the water and sleep. They also have the habit of floating on the surface by inflating their throat. These turtles are very sensitive to cold temperature and tend to hibernate (reptile hibernation is called brumation) during winters. The brumation sites include rocks, hollow logs, and the bottom of ponds or shallow lakes. The most preferred ones are the underwater sites. Their brumation starts with the onset of October, when the temperature falls below 10 degree Celsius. They come out in search of food, in late March or early April.
Males of the red-eared slider turtles reach sexual maturity when their plastron length is between 90 to 100 mm. In case of females, this happens when the plastron grows to a length of 150 to 195 mm. The mating season of these turtles is between March and July and the egg-laying period is from May to July. The number of eggs laid by a female may vary between two to thirty. The incubation period of the eggs is sixty to ninety days. If the hatching coincides with the winter season, the hatchlings may emerge only by spring. The hatchlings of these turtles possess an egg tooth to open the eggshell. This tooth falls off within an hour of their hatching and never grows back in their lifetime. The life expectancy of these turtles range between 50 to 70 years in the wild and up to 35 years in captivity, if looked after properly.
The FDA has banned the sale of red-eared slider turtles, with a carapace length of less than 4 inches. It has also banned the sale of turtle eggs. Hence, it is important to keep this in mind while buying a red-eared slider turtle as a pet. These turtles require large tanks, which have to be cleaned regularly and should be equipped with a good filtration system and special lighting. So, if you plan to raise these turtles as pets, gain a thorough knowledge about red-eared slider turtle care, beforehand.