Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Beyond Dorothy And Toto: Kansas' State Reptile

The Ornate Box Turtle (or Terrapene ornata) is Kansas' state reptile. These "decorated" turtles are yellow and brown. When you see one, you can easily tell its gender. Males have bright red and orange eyes, repeated on the front legs, face and neck. Females have yellow in these areas, and have slightly larger bodies than the males.
Can you tell the genders of the two below?
Photos by Bob Gress

If you said the first picture is the male, and the second one is the female, you are correct!
If you look closely at the shell segments (scutes), you can see annual growth rings. If you count the number of rings, you can get a fairly accurate idea how many years the turtle has lived through. Box turtles may live over 30 years.
Ornate box turtles eat insects, spiders, worms and some vegetation. In autumn box turtles hibernate underground by digging themselves holes a few inches below the surface.
What makes these box turtles so unique is the hinge in the lower shell that allows them to fully withdraw their extremities into the protective inner shell. Predators have nothing to snap onto, so they get frustrated and leave, and the turtle lives.

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