Chordates •

Spotted turtle

(Clemmys guttata)



The spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata), the only species of the genus Clemmys, is a small, semi-aquatic turtle that reaches a carapace length of 8–12 cm (3.1–4.7 in) upon adulthood. Their broad, smooth, low dark-colored upper shell, or carapace, ranges in its exact colour from black to a bluish black with a number of tiny yellow round spots. The spotting patterning extends from the head, to the neck and out onto the limbs. Sexually mature males have a concave plastron and a long, thick tail. By contrast, sexually mature females possess a flat plastron and have a tail notable shorter and thinner than mature males. Mature males also have a dark iris and face; females typically have a yellow or orange iris and a similarly coloured face that is distinctly lighter than males. Juveniles appear female-like in this regard and at maturity males begin to develop darker features. Spotted turtles are aquatic omnivores that inhabit a variety of semi-aquatic or in other words, shallow, fresh-water areas such as flooded forests, marshes, wet meadows, bogs and woodland streams in southern Canada (Ontario) and the eastern US: the eastern Great Lakes and east of the Appalachian Mountains. The spotted turtle is small and has a gray to black base color. Its upper shell (carapace) is smooth, does not have a central ridge running down the middle (called a "keel"), and grows to 3.5–12.5 cm (1.4–4.9 in) in length. It is also totally black and contains anywhere from zero to about one hundred yellow spots, which are a defining characteristic of this turtle. Although perhaps inconsequential, it has been found that the left side of the upper shell has more spots than the right. Spots can always be found on the head, neck, and limbs. The bottom shell (plastron) is yellow or orange-yellow and a black spot is present on each section (scute); however, with age, melanism of the plastron increases until the entire surface is black. The head is black and the upper jaw is notched. On each side of the head is a large orange blotch. Also present are several yellow bands of varying size. Skin on the dorsal side of the turtle is black with sparse yellow spots while skin on the ventral side may be brighter: orange, pink, or red. These lightly pigmented areas do vary geographically and the tail of some individuals has yellow striping.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Reptilia
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