Skip to content.

Painted Turtle

painted turtle(Chrysemys picta)

Where do painted turtles live?
Painted turtles are the most widely distributed turtle in North America. They live in permanent freshwater habitats such as ponds, lakes, marshes, sloughs, and creeks. They spend time in the soft bottoms of these bodies of water as well as in the aquatic vegetation and in sunny basking spots on or near the water.

How can we tell if a painted turtle is male or female?
Male painted turtles are generally smaller than the females and they have longer front claws and longer thicker tails. Males also have concave plastrons (bottom shells) to make mounting females during copulation more feasible. One interesting fact is that there are no genetic males or females in painted turtles. Their sex is determined by external temperature during embryogenesis. Colder temperatures produce males and hotter ones make females.

What do these turtles do in the winter months?
While painted turtles are able to withstand much colder temperatures than most cold-blooded animals, they do spend the coldest few months of the year burrowed in the soft mud at the bottom of their freshwater habitat.

How long do painted turtles live?
Scientists estimate that painted turtles can live up to 40 years in the wild, but in captivity they do not live nearly as long.

Where do painted turtles sleep?
Painted turtles sleep underwater, buried in the sand or mud at the bottom of their habitat. They can breathe air and also absorb oxygen in water.

What do painted turtles eat? What do you feed them at Warner Nature Center?
In the wild, painted turtles are omnivorous—they eat fish, insects, plants, fruit, carrion, and anything else they find. Here at Warner Nature Center we feed them crickets, minnows, red worms, mealworms, and Reptomin (commercial reptile food).

What is a turtle's shell made of?
A painted turtle shell is made of bone and is connected to the spine and ribs.

Do painted turtles have teeth?
No, they have a hard beak that allows them to chew, but they prefer to swallow their food whole.

How does the painted turtle grow?
The shell of a painted turtles is made up of 13 separate bone plates called scutes. When the turtle grows, it sheds the outermost layer of these scutes and grows new, larger plates underneath. The age of a turtle can be determined by counting the rings on the scutes; every time the turtle sheds an old scute, the new scute has another ring around its outer edge, giving it the same ringed look of a cross section of a tree.

Can the painted turtle call or make noise?
Turtles have no vocal chords, but they can sometimes make hissing sounds.

The information above is common scientific knowledge. For a list of specific resources, visit the Animal FAQ Resources page.

Adopt this animal