Painted turtles are brightly marked. They have a smooth shell about 90 to 250 mm long. Their shell acts as protection, but since the ribs are fused to the shell, the turtle cannot expand its chest to breathe but must force air in and out of the lungs by alternately contracting the flank and shoulder muscles. The painted turtle has a relatively flat upper shell with red and yellow markings on a black or greenish brown background. Males mature at about 70 to 95 mm plastron (lower shell) length, usually at 3 to 5 years of age. Females at take longer (6 to 10 years) and are larger at maturity (c. 100 to 130 mm plastron length). The growth rate, for both sexes is rapid during the first several years of the of their lives. Turtles continue to grow slowly after maturity, and this species may reach 250 mm carapace (upper shell) length and live for many decades.
Records mapped in Collins (1994) for Dickinson (KU 3191-2, 157811) and Greenwood (MVZ 43719-20) counties are given to county only and are too imprecise to map.
The record mapping in Collins (1994) from Morris County is unknown and not mapped.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences)
Allen (3), Anderson (5), Atchison (1), Barber (1), Barton (11), Bourbon (9), Brown (3), Butler (4), Chase (1), Chautauqua (1), Cherokee (5), Cheyenne (4), Clark (1), Clay (1), Cloud (1), Coffey (3), Comanche (1), Cowley (9), Crawford (2), Decatur (3), Dickinson (3), Doniphan (6), Douglas (32), Elk (1), Ellis (56), Ellsworth (3), Finney (8), Ford (3), Franklin (13), Geary (2), Gove (5), Graham (5), Greeley (1), Greenwood (6), Hamilton (1), Harper (10), Harvey (3), Haskell (1), Hodgeman (4), Jackson (2), Jefferson (1), Jewell (9), Johnson (1), Kingman (3), Kiowa (1), Labette (2), Leavenworth (8), Lincoln (3), Linn (3), Logan (7), Lyon (10), Marion (1), Marshall (2), McPherson (3), Meade (4), Miami (14), Mitchell (2), Montgomery (3), Morton (1), Neosho (2), Ness (4), Norton (2), Osage (1), Osborne (5), Ottawa (3), Pawnee (3), Phillips (6), Pottawatomie (2), Pratt (22), Rawlins (3), Reno (1), Republic (3), Rice (2), Riley (3), Rooks (5), Rush (2), Russell (19), Saline (7), Scott (1), Sedgwick (2), Shawnee (4), Sheridan (1), Sherman (2), Smith (1), Stafford (1), Sumner (3), Thomas (2), Trego (13), Wabaunsee (3), Wallace (9), Washington (5), Wichita (2), Wilson (2), Woodson (2), Wyandotte (2)
Mating begins after hibernation and before feeding begins when the water temperatures are still low. Fall mating may also occur. Temperature is a major environmental cue for the regulation of the seasonal gonadal cycle, but the thermal dependence of the reproductive system differs markedly for the two sexes.
The breeding season lasts from late spring to early summer. Males mature at about 70-95 mm plastron (lower shell) length, usually at 3-5 years of age. Females at take longer (6-10 years) and are larger at maturity (c. 100-130 mm plastron length).
In the early summer females lay 4 to 15 oval, soft-shelled eggs, in a flask-shaped hole. Females choose soft, sandy soil with good exposure to the sun in which to dig the hole. Once the eggs are laid they cover the hole and leave. The young hatch and dig out of the nest on their own, they are independent immediately.
Painted turtles bask in large groups on logs, fallen trees, and other objects. The sunning helps rid them of parasitic leeches. In many areas turtles hibernate during the winter months by burrowing into the mud and allowing their bodies to become very cold. Because of their small body size, they can move easily. Turtles dive quickly at the first hint of danger. Painted turtles are diurnal; that means they are active during the day. At night they will rest on the bottom of a pond or on a partially submerged object, such as a rock. During the day, painted turtles will bask in the sun, sometimes as many as 50 on one log, stacked on top of each other
Painted turtles feed mainly on plants, small animals, such as fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects, and some carrion. Young painted turtles are mainly carnivorous, acquiring a taste for plants later in life. Because they have no teeth, the turtle jaw has tough, horny plates for gripping food. Painted turtles must eat in the water, their tongue does not move freely and they cannot manipulate food well on land.
Growth and Longevity:
KU 159983, Barton County, William Knighton and Natalei Fayman, 24 June 1989, carapace length 207 mm (8 1/8 inches), Collins (1993).
Pleistocene fossils exist from Rice, Meade, Seward, and Jewell counties.
The sex of the turtle is determined during a critical phase of embryogenesis according to the incubation temperature. These temperature-dependent reptiles lack sex chromosomes. Low temperatures during incubation produce males and high temperatures produce females. Hatchlings have two threshold temperatures, 27 to 32 C and 22C. These thresholds may be important to some northern or woodland populations. The availability of water in the nests is more important than temperature in influencing survival, metabolism, and growth of the embryos.
1974. Collins, Joseph T.. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series. (1): pp. 283 pp.
1982. Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas, 2nd Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence. Pp. 356.
1993. Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. Pp. 397.