Eastern Mud Turtle
This semi-aquatic turtle occurs across Tennessee, except for the upper Cumberland and Tennessee River drainages. Only one subspecies, Eastern Mud Turtle (K. s. subrubrum), is found in Tennessee; however the other 2 subspecies, Florida (K. s. steindachneri) and Mississippi Mud Turtle (K. s.hippocrepis), may hybridize with Eastern Mud Turtle along Mississippi River.
Description: A small, drab turtle (2.75 to 4.0 inches in length) with a smooth, oval, dark brown (to almost black) shell. The large double-hinged plastron (lower shell) is yellowish-brown with dark markings. Bridge between plastron and carapace (upper shell) is broad. Head has some yellow streaking. Males have concaved plastrons and longer, thicker tails. Young have plastrons with orange-red spots.
Similar Species: Eastern Musk Turtle has small plastron with 1 hinge and 2 light stripes on head.
Habitat: Found in calm, shallow waters such as wetlands, ponds, ditches, and backwaters of rivers and streams. Prefers water with dense aquatic vegetation.
Diet: A variety of insects, crayfish, tadpoles, mollusks, carrion, and aquatic vegetation.
Breeding information: Adults court and mate in the spring. Females lay several clutches of 2-5 brittle eggs in shallow, well-drained nests throughout the summer. Eggs hatch in 90-100 days, but hatchlings remain in the nest until winter or spring of the next year.
Status in Tennessee: Appears common in parts of its range. Because of its drab colors, the Eastern Mud Turtle has not been exploited for the pet trade.
• Species name subrubrum refers to the red-orange coloration on plastron of young.
• Eastern Mud Turtles do not bask often.
Best places to see in Tennessee: Calm, shallow waters of the Mississippi River drainages.
For more information:
Atlas of Reptiles in Tennessee
Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.
Jensen, J. B., Camp C. D., Gibbons, W., and Elliot, M. J. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 575pp.