Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Testudines       Terrapene ornata -- Ornate Box Turtle

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Washington County, IL; photo by Mike Redmer distribution map

Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan) shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only

NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.

Key Characteristics: Moderately high carapace flattened along midline and without keel; hinged plastron patterned with lines radiating from center of each scute.

Similar Species: Eastern box turtle, Blanding's turtle.

Subspecies: Ornate box turtle, T. o. ornata.

Description: Small (up to 13 cm CL) turtle with dark brown carapace, yellow midback stripe and yellow lines radiating from center of each scute (6-8 lines per pleural scute). Plastron patterned with yellow lines on dark scutes. Head sometimes spotted. Male differs from female by having slightly concave plastron and red rather than brown eyes. Hatchling resembles adult, but yellow markings are more like spots than lines.

Habitat: Prairies (other than black muck prairie) and open fields in former prairie.

Natural History: Tends to be more carnivorous than eastern box turtle, but eats some vegetation. Eats mainly insects, but also snails, earthworms, tadpoles, bird eggs and hatchlings, and carrion. Female lays one or more clutches of 4-6 ellipsoidal, relatively hard-shelled eggs (ca. 35 x 20 mm) in June. Hibernates about two weeks earlier than eastern box turtle, and emerges in spring about two weeks later.

Status: Uncommon to rare in much of its range in Illinois.


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