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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California







Turtle Behavior and Life History

 










observation link

 

These are pictures and videos that illustrate some of the interesting behaviors of some of the turtles shown on this web site. (Not all interesting turtle behaviors are shown here, only those from this site. More will be added here as they are added to the site.) Follow the links on the name of each species to find more pictures and information about it.

Basking
     
pond turtle pond turtle painted turtles
This video shows a bunch of Pacific Pond Turtles competing for basking space on a pond and diving in when they thought I was a threat. Turtles, like these Pacific Pond Turtles, spend much of their time basking in the sun. They prefer to haul out on objects, such as rocks and fallen logs, on or next to their pond, so they can easily escape into the water if necessary. In a short video, Western Painted turtles bask on a log and retreat into the water.
texas cooters green sea turtle red-eared slider
When basking spots are scarce, turtles  often pile onto each other, like these Texas Cooters. Sea turtles come on to the beach to breed, and sometimes to bask in the sun, like this Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. In this video, Red-eared Sliders bask, swim, and slide back into a pond.
  red-eared slider  
  This Red-eared Slider is holding its legs out more parallel to the suns rays to warm them up more efficiently.
 
   
Movement
     
olive ridley desert tortoise sonoran mud turtle
This is a short video of an Olive Ridley swimming around in a large aquarium. In this video, a young Mohave Desert Tortoise walks along a rocky wash in the Mohave desert. In this short video, a Desert (Sonora) Mud Turtle slowly pokes its head out of its shell and looks around for several minutes before quickly returning back into the shell.
desert box turtles desert box turtle green sea turtles
In this short video, a bunch of Desert Box Turtles soak and drink in muddy rain puddles in the morning.






In this short video, a Desert Box Turtle crosses a road and wanders into the brush in the afternoon. This video shows Green Sea Turtles surfacing while feeding near the mouth of the San Gabriel River. About every 5 minutes I saw one of these turtles surface to breathe for just a few seconds, but there was no way to tell when and where one would come up, which made it difficult to photograph them.
   
Self Defense
     
pond turtle yellow mud turtle Texas Tortoise
Turtles, like this Pacific Pond Turtle, pull their limbs and head into their shell when they feel threatened in order to protect these vulnerable parts. A Yellow Mud Turtle retreats into its shell. This juvenile Texas Tortoise has pulled its head and legs into its shell, covering its head with its legs.
Box Turtle Box Turtle Box Turtle
Box Turtles have a hinged shell that helps to protect them when they retreat into their shell.
Burrows
     
Desert Tortoise burrow Desert Tortoise burrow Desert Tortoise burrow
Desert Tortoises spend much of their lives in burrows which they dig under desert shrubs, as you can see here.
tortoise burrow tortoise burrow tortoise burrow
Gopher Tortoises in their Burrows
tortoise Desert Tortoise tortoise burrow
In this video, we see a Gopher Tortoise in Florida walking into the brush and down into its burrow on the other side of the brush. Eventually it turns around and we can see it staring out of the mouth of the burrow.
In this video, an adult Mohave Desert Tortoise crawls back into its summer burrow, kicking dirt out behind it.
Gopher Tortoise Burrow
   
Breeding
     
Desert Box Turtles Desert Box Turtles Desert Box Turtles
A pair of breeding Desert Box Turtles in New Mexico
pond turtle eggs  
Pacific Pond Turtle Eggs, © Patrick Briggs Western Pond Turtle Life Cycle:
Adult, Juvenile, and Egg, Butte County.
© The Chico Turtle Lab
 
     
Turtle Behavior Research
     
Pacific Pond Turtle Pacific Pond Turtle Pacific Pond Turtle
Pacific Pond Turtles with transmitters attached to their shells. An antenna with a radio receiver that can find these transmitters is used to find the turtles and track their movement in order to study their behavior. Transmitters on females like the one on the far left are placed on the side of the shell to prevent obstacles to males during breeding. The transmitters are removed without damaging the shells when research is completed. © Neil Keung  
Research covered under Federal permits, State Parks permits, and Open Space Authority permits.
  Pacific Pond Turtle  
  This Pacific Pond Turtle travelled away from a dry creek in summer to bury itself in an upland location above the creek in oak woodland habitat where it will stay until the following Spring. The turtle was found by tracking the transmitter which you can see attached to its shell.

© Neil Keung 
Research covered under Federal permits, State Parks permits, and Open Space Authority permits.
 
   
Turtle Tracks and Signs
     
turtle tracks turtle tracks shell
Desert Box Turtle tracks Texas Tortoise Shell
shell scat turtle tracks
  Desert Tortoise Scat Gopher Tortoise tracks
turtle tracks turtle tracks turtle tracks
Gopher Tortoise tracks
Gopher Tortoise tracks Gopher Tortoise tracks
   
Parasites
Red-eared Slider Red-eared Slider Red-eared Slider
This Red-eared Slider from Napa County has three large leeches on its shell. Leeches often attach themselves to the fleshy parts of turtles but they can also suck blood from the scutes on the shell.
© Hank Miller
Midland Painted Turtle with a leech on its shell, photographed near Chicago.
     

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