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Eurasian Pond and River Turtles and Neotropical Wood Turtles: Geoemydidae

Yellow-margined Box Turtle (cistoclemmys Flavomarginata): Species Account

Physical characteristics: The yellow-margined box turtle has a bright yellow stripe down its upper shell and another yellow stripe that runs from behind the eye onto the neck. The upper shell is arched and rounded, and the lower shell is large, with a side-to-side hinge that allows the turtle to tightly close it. In this small turtle, the upper shell measures just 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) in length.

Geographic range: This turtle is found in China, Taiwan, and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.

Habitat: Yellow-margined box turtles mainly live in the warm-weather forests of southern China, Taiwan, and the Ryukyu Islands. Yellow-margined box turtles mainly live in the warm-weather forests of southern China, Taiwan, and the Ryukyu Islands. (Lief Linder/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permisson.) They sometimes travel into rice paddies and freshwater ponds and streams. Some of them only rarely, if ever, leave the forests.

Diet: Some members of this turtle group eat only plants, some eat only meat, and others eat both plants and meat.

Behavior and reproduction: Since they live on land, the yellow-margined box turtles must be able to defend themselves against animals that might attack and kill them. These predators (PREH-duhters) can easily outrun them, but they can protect themselves by tucking in their heads, legs, and tails and then using the hinges on their lower shells to seal shut the shells and keep the predators from reaching their soft flesh. If the weather turns particularly hot, the turtles may also hide inside the sealed shell so they do not dry out. When the cooler winter months arrive, the turtles bury themselves under leaves or hide under a log or inside another animal's underground burrow and wait for warmer weather.

During mating season, the male runs at and bumps against the female to encourage her to mate with him. Depending on where she lives, the female may nest from May or June through July, August, or September. Some nest only every other year, but they may make one to three nests in a single season. The female picks a spot in an open area at the edge of a forest, digs a shallow hole, and lays one to four eggs, ranging in length from 1.6 to 2.1 inches (40–53 millimeters) and in width from 0.9 to 1.1 inches (23–28 millimeters). An egg can weigh 0.4–1.0 ounces (11.3–28.3 grams). The eggs hatch in about two months. The young cannot mate until they are twelve to thirteen years old.

Yellow-margined box turtles and people: Many local people eat this turtle or collect and kill it to make medicines. It is also popular in the pet trade.

Conservation status: According to the World Conservation Union, this species is Endangered. Threats to its survival include too much collection and the destruction of the forests where it lives. ∎



Burnie, David, and Don E. Wilson, eds. Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2001.

Liat, Lim Boo, and Indraneil Das. Turtles of Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Natural History Publications (Borneo), 1999.

Zhou, J., and T. Zhou. Chinese Chelonians Illustrated. Nanjing, China: Jiangsu Science and Technology Publishing House, 1992.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesEurasian Pond and River Turtles and Neotropical Wood Turtles: Geoemydidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Yellow-margined Box Turtle (cistoclemmys Flavomarginata): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DI