Northern Red-bellied Cooter
|Common Name:||Northern Red-bellied Cooter|
|Scientific Name:||Pseudemys rubriventris|
|Genus:||Pseudemys is derived from the Greek word pseudes which means "false" and emys which means "turtle".|
|Species:||rubriventris is derived from the Latin word ruber meaning "red" and venter meaning "belly" (plastron).|
|Average Length:||10 - 12.5 in. (25.4 - 32 cm)|
|Virginia Record Length:||13.1 in. (33.4 cm)|
|Record length:||15.8 in. (40 cm)|
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: The shell of this species is elongate, oval in lateral outline, usually flattened or mid-dorsally concave in old specimens, and often constricted in the region of the sixth marginals. It is large with the maximum shell length close to 400 mm. Maximum known carapace length in VA is 334 mm, max plastron length is 326 mm, and max body mass is 3900 grams. The ratio of length divided by height varies between 2.85 and 3.27 with an average of 3.01 for the males. The carapace is often wrinkled lengthwise and never keeled except in the young, and rugose in adults; usually 11/11 marginals, 4/4 pleurals, 5 vertebrals. Hingeless plastron is slightly smaller than carapace. The carapace is brownish with a light red patterning, the most frequently occurring red mark being the broader transverse line on each marginal scute. Pleurals also sometimes have a forked vertical line. In older males this pattern can be highly variable. A few individual females are nearly all black. The underside of marginals are yellow to reddish with black spots and the bridge has several black spots or a black bar. The plastron is orange or red with a dark pattern along seams in the young, but fades with age. The color on the underside of the marginals is often more intense than the plastron The head is dark brown with light stripes; with one distinctive streak down the middle of the top of the head joins with lines from above the eyes at the tip of the snout, forming an arrow pattern. Upper jaw has cusp on either side *1027,10760*.
SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Females are larger than males ranging from 258-334 CL while males range from 179-295 CL. Males have elongated foreclaws and the anal opening extends past the posterior of the shell *10760*.
JUVENILES: The carapace in juveniles is green with yellow markings. Plastron is red or yellow and has a irregular black marking that fades with age. Skin is also green. Hatchlings in VA ranged from 24-37.3 mm CL *10760*.
CONFUSING SPECIES: Pseudemys rubriventris may be confused with P. c. concinna which has a backwards "C" in the 2nd pleural scute, a yellowish plastron, and no prominent cusps on the upper jaw. P. c. floridana has yellow markings and a yellow plastron with no markings *10760,11624*.
REPRODUCTION: This species breeds in June in New England *1007*. Richmond (1945) reported nesting dates of 18 May to 4 July in New Kent Co., VA. C.H. Ernst recorded dates of 25 May - 4 July in Fairfax Co. Females lay up to two clutches a year of 8-29 eggs. Incubation in the laboratory was 32-76 days. Nest is an approximately 10 cm cavity in sandy soil that may be several meters from water. Emergence from the nest can occur in April indicating that some eggs overwinter in the nest. They usually hatch in the the late summer *10760,11624*. This species will abandon egg-laying if disturbed.
ORIGIN: This species is native *10760*.
BEHAVIOR: This species feeds on crustaceans, insect larvae, fish, worms, other animal matter and aquatic vegetation *3640*. It is omnivorous as a juvenile, but mainly herbivorous as an adult *10760,11624*. It is often seen basking on logs but is a very shy and wary turtle. This species swims well and rapidly when alarmed *1027*. They will bury themselves under mud in shallow water to hibernate *1007*. They are most active during the daytime. Activity season is March to October though activity has been noted through December. During the nesting season they move about a lot on land *10760*.
AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: They are mainly found in freshwater slow moving waterbodies with numerous basking sites and soft substrate for hibernation. They will occur in brackish water as well. They are preyed upon by raccoons and humans as adults, and by numerous avian, and mammalian predators as well as fish. The eggs are also a valuable food source for many animals *10760*.
POPULATION PARAMETERS: Little is known in this area. This species has been harvested recently by humans for food, but harvest rates and their impact on this species' population is unknown *1027,10760*.
References for Life History
*Click on a thumbnail for a larger version.
|Adult - Prince William Co.||Close-up||Campbell Co.||Warren Co. - Juvenile Carapace||Warren Co. - Juvenile Plastron|
Charles City County
Isle of Wight County
James City County
King and Queen County
King William County
New Kent County
Newport News City
Prince George County
Prince William County
Virginia Beach City
Verified in 43 Counties/Cities.