Red-Eared Slider
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Photo by: Twan Leenders

Online Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut

Red-Eared Slider – Trachemys scripta elegans

 

Description

A rather large, freshwater turtle that is only likely mistaken for native painted turtles (Chrysemys p. picta) in Connecticut. They can easily be identified by the large red stripe behind each eye; their “red ear”. However, large adult males can occasionally become melanized and their dark, black appearance may obscure this red stripe from a distance. Mature females grow to large sizes; up to 290 mm (11.4 inches). Males are smaller than females; reaching maximum sizes around 220 mm (8.7 inches).

 

Reproduction

The reproductive biology of red-eared sliders is highly variable. Males mature anywhere from 2-5 years and females mature at about 8 years of age. Both in the native and introduced ranges of the United States, females tend to nest between April and July. Occasionally sliders can be seen nesting into early fall. Females can lay anywhere from 1-30 eggs in a given clutch and can lay between 1-5 clutches each year. Although it has been proposed that exotic sliders cannot reproduce in New England, there is little known about the biology of this species in Connecticut and elsewhere in New England.

 

Juveniles

Hatchling sliders usually emerge in late summer or early fall, although it is common for hatchlings to overwinter in their nest and emerge the following spring. Hatchlings are 1.5-3.5 cm in plastron length and tend to have a more prominent, proportionally-larger red stripe than do adults. One-year old sliders are around 3.5-5.5 cm in length and sliders in their second year are around 5.5-6.5 cm. Growth rates in sliders are highly dependent on temperature, the length of the growing season, and food availability.

 

Habitat

Red-eared sliders are habitat generalists. They can be found where most other freshwater turtles are found. Habitats can include lakes, small ponds, canals, and streams. This species is likely to be seen basking on vegetation, logs, rocks, or urban infrastructure. Outside of its native range in other states, sliders are often found in urban and suburban ponds.

 

Food

Sliders are voracious eaters and are highly omnivorous and opportunistic. Like most aquatic turtles, sliders shift from a predominantly meat-based diet while young to diets with higher proportions of plant matter as adults.

 

Range

Red-eared sliders are not native to Connecticut. This species’ native range extends from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, as far west as part of New Mexico and as far east as parts of West Virginia. Sliders have been introduced throughout the United States and are prevalent on every continent except Antarctica.

The distribution of sliders in Connecticut is poorly studied, though it has been noted throughout the state, predominantly from urban areas like Hartford, New Haven, and Greenwich.

 

Status

Non-native. Its introduction and spread are due predominantly to released pets. Listed as IUCN’s 100 Worst Invasive Species List.

 

References

Ernst, C. H. 1990. Systematics, taxonomy, variation, and geographic distribution of the slider turtle. In Life History and Ecology of the Slider Turtle, J. W. Gibbons. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, D. C.

Ernst, C. H. and J. E. Lovich. 2009. Turtles of the United States and Canada. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.

Klemens, M. W. 1993. Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut and Adjacent Regions. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut.

 Lambert, M. R. and G. S. J. Giller. 2015. CHELYDRA SERPENTINA (Snapping Turtle), CHRYSEMYS PICTA PICTA (Eastern Painted Turtle), STERNOTHERUS ODORATUS (Eastern Musk Turtle), TRACHEMYS SCRIPTA ELEGANS (Red-Eared Slider). URBAN POND, HIGH TRAPPING SUCCESS. Herpetological Review.

Lambert, M. R., Nielsen, S. N., Wright, A. N., Thomson, R. C., and H. B. Shaffer. 2013. Habitat features determine the basking distribution of introduced red-eared sliders and native western pond turtles. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 12: 192-199.

 

Credits

Text by Max Lambert

Photo by Twan Leenders