Florida is a state known for its diverse and fascinating wildlife, and its turtle population is no exception. With around 30 different types of turtles in Florida, the Sunshine State is home to a stunning array of these reptiles. From the massive 500-pound sea turtles to the tiny softshell turtles, Florida’s turtles come in all shapes and sizes.
In this article, we will cover ten of the most unique and interesting types of turtles that can be found in Florida. Whether you’re a turtle enthusiast or just curious about the wildlife in Florida, read on to learn more about these fascinating creatures.
10 Types Of Turtles In Florida
Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox)
The Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) is a species of turtle in the family Trionychidae. It is the bulkiest of the softshell turtles but inhabits the smallest range.
The species is native to the southeastern United States, including Florida. Florida softshell turtles have a leathery, soft, dark brown to olive green shell that is oblong and has bumps behind the head.
Both the carapace and plastron are covered with skin and lack scutes. Adult Florida softshell turtles have bumpy, leathery, oblong carapaces with dark brown to olive green colors and a gray to white plastron. The shell of this species is leathery in texture.
Ranging from olive green to dark brown, it has the darkest coloration of all the softshell species that inhabit Florida. It is also characterized by a white or cream-colored underside. This color pattern is known as countershading and is a form of camouflage to conceal turtles from potential predators.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is a species of oceanic turtle that is distributed throughout the world. It is a marine reptile that belongs to the family Cheloniidae.
The average loggerhead measures around 90 cm (35 in) in carapace length when fully grown, and the adult loggerhead sea turtle weighs approximately 135 kg (298 lb), with the largest specimens weighing in at more than 450 kg (1,000 lb).
The skin ranges from yellow to brown in color, and the shell is typically reddish-brown. Loggerhead turtles are named for their large heads that support powerful jaw muscles, allowing them to crush hard-shelled prey like clams and sea urchins. They are less likely to be hunted for their meat or shell compared to other sea turtles.
However, the greatest threat to their survival is the loss of nesting habitat due to coastal development, predation of nests, and human disturbances that cause disorientations during the emergence of hatchlings.
Other major threats include incidental capture in longline fishing, shrimp trawling, and pollution. Incidental capture in fisheries is thought to have played a significant role in the recent population declines observed for the loggerhead.
Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is a species of large freshwater turtle in the family Chelydridae. It is native to North America and can be found from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as the Rocky Mountains.
Here are some key characteristics of the common snapping turtle:
– The common snapping turtle is a large turtle, ranging in size from 8 to 14 inches (20-36 cm) with a record length of 19.3 inches (49 cm).
– The shell of the common snapping turtle ranges in color from dark brown to tan and can even be black in some individuals.
– The tail of the common snapping turtle has saw-toothed keels on it and is nearly as long as the shell.
– The necks, legs, and tails of the common snapping turtle have a yellowish color, and the head is dark in color.
– The common snapping turtle is known for its combative disposition when out of the water with its powerful beak-like jaws and highly mobile head and neck.
– In water, the common snapping turtle is likely to flee and hide underwater in sediment.
– Snapping turtles are not social creatures, and social interactions are limited to aggressive interactions between individuals, usually males.
– Many individuals can be found within a small range, and snapping turtle density is normally related to the amount of available food.
– Snapping turtles can be very vicious when removed from the water, but they become docile when placed back into the water.
– Snapping turtles sometimes bury themselves in mud with only their nostrils and eyes exposed.
Overall, the common snapping turtle is a fascinating and unique species of turtle that can be found in freshwater habitats throughout North America.
Florida Mud Turtle
The Florida mud turtle (Kinosternon baurii) is a small, dark, aquatic turtle that can be found in Florida. Here are some key characteristics of the Florida mud turtle:
– The Florida mud turtle is only 3 to 4 inches in length and has a double-hinged plastron, similar to the eastern box turtle.
– The shell of the Florida mud turtle is somewhat oval to elongate and reaches a maximum of 4 inches (100 mm).
– The Florida mud turtle has three light dorsal stripes that are barely evident in some individuals and may be obscured entirely, leaving the upper shell nearly plain brown.
– The head of the Florida mud turtle is relatively large and usually has a pair of narrow yellowish stripes on each side.
– The lower shell of the Florida mud turtle is yellowish-orange to brown, with two movable hinges and often with distinct growth rings.
– The Florida mud turtle is a small, dark, aquatic turtle that is found in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia.
– The Florida mud turtle is a member of the family Kinosternidae, which is a group of small to medium-sized turtles that are found in the Americas.
– The Florida mud turtle is not considered to be a threatened species, but it is protected by state law in Florida.
Overall, the Florida mud turtle is a fascinating and unique species of turtle that can be found in freshwater habitats throughout Florida.
Leatherback Sea Turtle
The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest of all living turtles and the heaviest non-crocodilian reptile, reaching lengths of up to 1.8 meters and weights of 500 kilograms. Here are some key characteristics of the leatherback sea turtle:
– The leatherback sea turtle is the only species of sea turtle that lacks scales and a hard shell.
– The carapace of the leatherback sea turtle is large, elongated, and flexible with seven distinct ridges running the length of the animal.
– The carapace is composed of a layer of thin, tough, rubbery skin, strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates, and does not have scales, except in hatchlings.
– The leatherback sea turtle has a smooth, leathery skin that covers a flexible matrix of bone, which is highly specialized for diving to extreme depths of up to 4,000 feet (1,219 meters).
– The leatherback sea turtle is the most unique of all sea turtle species and has the greatest migratory distribution of any reptile on the planet.
– Leatherbacks are the largest of the seven living sea turtle species, growing to more than 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length and weighing up to 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms).
– Leatherback turtles are named for their shell, which is leather-like rather than hard, like other turtles.
– Leatherback turtles are found worldwide and have the largest north and south range of all the sea turtle species.
– The greatest threat to leatherback sea turtles is from incidental take in commercial fisheries and marine pollution, such as balloons and plastic bags floating in the water, which are mistaken for jellyfish.
Overall, the leatherback sea turtle is a fascinating and unique species of turtle that is the largest of all living turtles and has a highly specialized body that allows it to dive to extreme depths.
Florida Chicken Turtle
The Florida chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia chrysea) is a subspecies of the chicken turtle, which is native to the southeastern United States. Here are some key characteristics of the Florida chicken turtle:
– The Florida chicken turtle has the most distinctively patterned carapace of all the chicken turtles, featuring bold, broad yellow-orange reticulation.
– The shell of the Florida chicken turtle is cuneiform (wedge-shaped), especially so in males and juvenile turtles, and measures up to 16.5 cm (6.5 in) for males and 25.0 cm (9.8 in) for females.
– The subspecies name chrysea is taken from the Latin for “golden one” due to the bright yellow or orange color of its plastron.
– The Florida chicken turtle is found only in Florida and is relatively widespread throughout the state.
– The Florida chicken turtle is a semi-aquatic basking turtle that is found on both water and land.
– They prefer quiet bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, ditches, marshes, cypress swamps, and Carolina bays.
– They bask on logs, rocks, and other emergent structures and prefer water with plenty of aquatic vegetation and a soft substrate.
– Chicken turtles are tolerant of ephemeral aquatic habitats and readily travel onto land to burrow into the soil and escape dry conditions.
– The Florida chicken turtle is sometimes called “American snake necks” because of their long, striped necks.
– They are small to medium-sized turtles, with head and neck length approximately equal to their plastron length, or up to 80% of the length of their carapace.
Overall, the Florida chicken turtle is a unique and fascinating species of turtle that is found only in Florida and has a distinctively patterned carapace.
Florida Box Turtle
The Florida box turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri) is a subspecies of the common box turtle that belongs to the Emydidae family. Here are some key characteristics of the Florida box turtle:
– The Florida box turtle can be found in damp environments such as wetlands, marshlands, and near swamps but usually does not enter water deep enough to swim.
– The Florida box turtle is often found in the flatwoods, upland, and mesophytic hammock but is generally absent in the high pine.
– Juveniles prefer areas that contain dense cover, high amounts of leaf litter, and moist soil, while adults are more flexible in their habitat requirements and have been observed in more open areas.
– The Florida box turtle has a narrow and highly domed shell with a hinged plastron that allows it to close its shell tightly.
– The Florida box turtle has a distinct pattern of yellow stripes on its carapace that make it easily identifiable.
– The coloring of the plastron can vary anywhere from solid yellow to solid black, with any number of variations in between.
– The average size of the Florida box turtle is 4 to 6 inches, and it has a highly domed shell with a hinge so it can completely enclose its body within its shell.
– The Florida box turtle is similar in color to the Western Ornate turtle but has thinner and more numerous yellow markings.
– The Florida box turtle likes to spend a lot of time in the water, so a bowl of water should be available that it can climb in and out of easily.
– High humidity is required for this turtle, so spraying once a day during the warmest months is necessary.
Overall, the Florida box turtle is a unique and fascinating species of turtle that is found in damp environments throughout Florida and has a narrow and highly domed shell with a distinct pattern of yellow stripes.
Alligator Snapping Turtle
The alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) is a large freshwater turtle that is native to the United States. Here are some key characteristics of the alligator snapping turtle:
– The alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in North America and one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world.
– Males typically weigh between 155 and 175 pounds (70 and 80 kilograms), but there are claims of a 400-pound (180-kilogram) alligator snapping turtle being caught in Kansas in 1937, although there isn’t sufficient evidence to confirm the claim.
– The alligator snapping turtle has a spiked shell, beak-like jaws, and a thick, scaled tail, which gives it a prehistoric appearance.
– The carapace of the alligator snapping turtle is dark brown in color and has three large, pronounced ridges called keels that run from front to back and contain prominent spikes.
– The alligator snapping turtle has large, pointed heads with hooked beaks, and unlike other species of snapping turtles, their eyes are located on the sides of the head rather than at the front.
– Alligator snapping turtles are found exclusively in the United States, from northern Florida to eastern Texas and as far north as Iowa.
– Alligator snapping turtles are almost exclusively aquatic and tend to stay submerged and motionless for so long that algae begins to grow on their shells.
– They can go 50 minutes before needing to surface for a gulp of air, and except for egg-laying females, these turtles almost never come on land.
– Alligator snapping turtles are hunters and scavengers that feed on fish, mollusks, and other turtles as well as frogs, snakes, snails, small mammals, insects, and aquatic plants.
– They are most active at night, but during the day, they often lay motionless in murky waters with their mouths open, using a pink, worm-like appendage on their tongue to lure prey.
Overall, the alligator snapping turtle is a fascinating and unique species of turtle that is the largest freshwater turtle in North America and has a prehistoric appearance with a spiked shell and beak-like jaws.
Loggerhead Musk Turtle
The loggerhead musk turtle (Sternotherus minor) is a species of turtle in the family Kinosternidae. Here are some key characteristics of the loggerhead musk turtle:
– The loggerhead musk turtle has a relatively large head compared to other musk turtles, with a light-colored background and dark spots or stripes present on the head and neck.
– The average size of an adult loggerhead musk turtle is about 3-5 inches (7.6-12.7 cm) in straight carapace length.
– Hatchlings are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in straight carapace length and grow up to around 3 to 5 inches (about 8 to 13 cm) by adulthood.
– Juveniles have three keels on the carapace that usually disappear by adulthood.
– The loggerhead musk turtle is a relatively small aquatic turtle, usually averaging 3 to 5 inches in length.
– The loggerhead musk turtle forages in streams with sandy or vegetated bottoms with varying speeds of water.
– Being more aquatic than the closely related mud turtles, loggerhead musk turtles prefer a greater sized water area.
– Loggerhead musk turtles are well able to thrive in deep water and are often found in streams, rivers, and other bodies of water with slow-moving currents.
– Loggerhead musk turtles are omnivorous and feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and plant material.
– The loggerhead musk turtle is not considered to be a threatened species, but it is protected by state law in some states.
Overall, the loggerhead musk turtle is a unique and fascinating species of turtle that is relatively small and has a large head compared to other musk turtles. It is an omnivorous aquatic turtle that can be found in streams and rivers with slow-moving currents.
The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a species of turtle native to the brackish coastal tidal marshes of the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico coast, as well as in Bermuda. Here are some key characteristics of the diamondback terrapin:
– The diamondback terrapin is a medium-sized turtle, with adult females reaching up to 9 inches (23 cm) in carapace length and males reaching up to 6 inches (15 cm).
– The carapace of the diamondback terrapin is gray to brown in color and has a concentric pattern of grooves and ridges that form diamond-shaped scutes.
– The diamondback terrapin is an aquatic turtle that inhabits saltwater habitats, including brackish channels, lagoons, tidal flats, marshes, estuarine areas, and coastlines.
– They are most commonly found along the Eastern Coast of the U.S., from Cape Cod (Massachusetts) to Texas.
– The diamondback terrapin is the only species of turtle in North America that spends its life in brackish water.
– Diamondback terrapins are carnivorous and feed on a variety of prey, including crabs, snails, clams, and small fish.
– The diamondback terrapin is considered a threatened species in some states due to habitat loss, over-harvesting for food, and accidental drowning in crab traps.
– The diamondback terrapin is an important species in the ecosystem, as it helps to control populations of its prey and is a food source for larger predators.
Overall, the diamondback terrapin is a unique and fascinating species of turtle that is native to the brackish coastal tidal marshes of the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico coast, as well as in Bermuda.
It is an aquatic turtle that feeds on a variety of prey and is considered a threatened species in some states due to habitat loss and over-harvesting for food.
1. How many types of turtles are there in Florida?
There are around 30 different types of turtles in Florida.
2. What are some of the types of turtles found in Florida?
Some of the types of turtles found in Florida include the Florida softshell turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, common snapping turtle, Florida mud turtle, leatherback sea turtle, Florida chicken turtle, Florida box turtle, alligator snapping turtle, loggerhead musk turtle, and diamond-backed terrapin.
3. Are all of the turtles in Florida native to the state?
No, there are both native and non-native species of turtles found in Florida.
4. What is the largest turtle found in Florida?
The leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle found in Florida and is the largest of all living turtles, reaching lengths of up to 1.8 meters and weights of 500 kilograms.
5. Are any of the turtles in Florida endangered?
Yes, some species of turtles in Florida are listed under the Endangered Species Act, such as the Hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles.
6. What is the habitat of the diamondback terrapin?
The diamondback terrapin is native to the brackish coastal tidal marshes of the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico coast, as well as in Bermuda.
7. What is the size of the Florida box turtle?
The Florida box turtle is a medium-sized turtle, with adult females reaching up to 9 inches (23 cm) in carapace length and males reaching up to 6 inches (15 cm) .
8. What is the diet of the alligator snapping turtle?
The alligator snapping turtle is a carnivorous turtle that feeds on a variety of prey, including crabs, snails, clams, and small fish.
9. What is the size of the loggerhead musk turtle?
The average size of an adult loggerhead musk turtle is about 3-5 inches (7.6-12.7 cm) in straight carapace length.
10. What is the greatest threat to the survival of sea turtles?
The greatest threat to the survival of sea turtles is from human activities, such as hunting, fishing, pollution, and habitat destruction.