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Florida Cooter

Photo Credit: Eric Spadgenske

SCIENTIFIC NAMEPseudemys floridana
 
DESCRIPTON: The Florida cooter is a large turtle with very similar physical characteristics to the river cooter (Pseudemys concinna). Both species have average lengths between 9 to 13 inches with a maximum length for adult turtles being approximately 15 inches. Adult turtles have a dark carapace (top of shell) with yellow markings; however, markings on the Florida cooter tend to be vertical stripes while the river cooter has a net-like pattern. The plastron (bottom of shell) is lightly colored while the head and neck are black with yellow stripes. On younger Florida cooters concentric markings on its shell are usually visible. Markings are usually vertical and lack the “C” on the second side scute characteristic of the river cooter. However, on older individuals, this is often not visible.
   
DISTRIBUTION:  Found in southeastern coastal plains from southeastern Virginia to portions of the Florida Everglades and west to Texas. Alabama distribution is limited primarily to the lower coastal plain.     
 
HABITAT: Florida cooters are normally found in still permanent water with soft sandy bottoms and abundant vegetation, such as wetlands, marshes, and ponds. These habitat preferences help distinguish them from river cooters which prefer rivers and large streams.
 
FEEDING HABITS: Opportunistic omnivores with females feeding mainly on aquatic vegetation, while males prey on a variety of aquatic invertebrates. They are fairly social turtles, often basking in groups.   
 
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: These turtles breed between May and July. The females dig several nest cavities within inches of each other and lay about 20 eggs per clutch (usually 2 clutches per year) in soft soil close to water. After about 90 days, hatching occurs, but juveniles may not emerge until a year later.
 
REFERENCES:
 
Ashton, Ray E. Jr.; Ashton, Patricia Sawyer 1985, 1991. Handbook of Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida, Part Two : Lizards, Turtles & Crocodilians. Windward Publishing, Inc.
 
Mount, Robert H. 1975. The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. Auburn University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 
 
AUTHOR: Chris Nix, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

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