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New World Pond Turtles: Emydidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Many people have seen these turtles, because most of the animals in this family like to sunbathe, or "bask." Turtles that live in the water typically climb up onto a rock or log sticking up above the water's surface and soak in the sunshine. Often, many turtles will climb onto the same rock or log and may stack up on one another. Turtles that live on land simply find a sunny spot and bask there. Many of these turtles are active all year, but those that live in temperate climates sink underwater and bury themselves in the muddy bottom or bury themselves in shallow holes or under piles of leaves to wait out the winter. Some that live in areas with long, dry spells also become inactive until the rains come again.

During breeding season, usually in the spring, the males try to attract the females by bobbing their heads or waving their front claws in front of a female's face. After mating, the female finds a dry spot onshore, sometimes up to 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) away from the water, and digs a hole. She lays as few as one egg and as many as two dozen eggs in the hole and then covers them up. Afterward, she provides no care for the eggs or the young. As with most turtles, the temperature of the nest controls whether the egg becomes a male or a female turtle. Warm nest temperatures produce females, and cool temperatures produce males. The eggs hatch in about two to three months.


In many turtles, including some New World pond turtles, a person can tell how old a turtle is by counting its rings. The rings are on the upper shell, which is split into little sections, called scutes (SCOOTS). Wood turtles, for example, have five scutes down the middle of the shell and another four on each side. Every year the turtle gets a new set of scutes, which grow underneath the old ones; they stack up in a pyramid shape, with older and slightly smaller scutes on top. By counting all of the scutes in one pile, a person can guess the age of the turtle. Sometimes the oldest scutes wear away, so the turtles may actually be a little older than their scutes reveal.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesNew World Pond Turtles: Emydidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Painted Turtle (chrysemys Picta): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, NEW WORLD POND TURTLES AND PEOPLE