Michigan State University masthead

Blanding's turtle

Blanding's turtle
Emydoidea blandingii

Image of Blanding's turtle (juvenile)Description

Blanding's turtle is a medium-sized turtle with an elongated, dome-like carapace and a long neck. The smooth carapace is usually black with a variable number of yellowish spots and streaks. The head is also dark, with brown or yellow spots, but the chin and the underside of the neck are bright yellow. The yellowish plastron has a dark blotch at the outer edge of each scute, and there is usually a flexible hinge between the pectoral and abdominal scutes. A frightened turtle may use this hinge to lift the front and back of the plastron and close up its shell. Hinge flexibility varies greatly among individuals, with some specimens having little or no shell closing ability.

Adult Carapace Length:

6 to 10.5 inches (15.2 to 26.8 cm).

Habitat and Habits

Blanding's turtles inhabit shallow bodies of water with some aquatic plant growth and a muddy bottom, such as marshes, ponds, and river backwaters. They are most often seen while wandering overland in spring and fall, and females seeking nest sites may travel considerable distances. Unfortunately, these turtles are frequent road victims. Most feeding occurs under water, where prey is captured by a quick thrust of the long neck. Favorite foods include crayfish, insects, tadpoles, frogs, and carrion. Blanding's turtles are timid creatures that rarely bite defensively, relying instead on their shells for protection. They are potentially long-lived animals, often attaining ages of 50 years or more.

Image of Blanding's turtleReproduction

Mating occurs in water in the spring. The yellow neck coloration probably assists in species recognition. Most females nest in June, burying from 3 to 21 elliptical, soft-shelled eggs in a sunny location. The hatchlings emerge in late August or September. They have dark gray or brown carapaces averaging about 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) long and long, thin tails.

Range and Status

This turtle is fairly common in parts of the Lower Peninsula but is rare and local in the Upper Peninsula. Primary threats to the species include loss or alteration of wetland habitats and destruction on roads.

Image of Blanding's turtleAcknowledgement

James Harding
MSU Museum
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 353-7978