Eastern Box Turtle
Terrapene carolina

The Eastern Box Turtle is about 6 in. long and 4 in. wide with variable orange-yellow markings on a brown carapace. Adult females have yellow or brown eyes that are in contrast to the usual red eyes of the males.  Females are somewhat flat on the undersides; males have concave bottoms.  Young box turtles eat mushrooms, insects, worms and all sorts of small animal matter. Adults normally prefer plant matter. Females bury eggs by digging a cavity in sandy, loamy soil with their back legs. Eggs incubate in about three months, but this is variable according to soil temperature and moisture. It is known that sex determination (whether offspring will be male or female) is related to soil temperature. Some box turtles are believed to have lived for more than 100 years.

Although most kinds of turtles can withdraw into their shells, a box turtle can close up more completely than other species because its plastron, or lower shell, is hinged at the front section and the rear section can be bent upward so that the edges of the two shells meet. Box turtles are basically land-dwelling reptiles, but sometimes cool themselves in woodland pools or puddles. They are renowned for their longevity. Although some individuals have reportedly lived for more than a hundred years, estimates of a turtle's age are not always reliable. Dates scratched into the shell indicate little more than the personality of the person doing the carving. Counting the growth rings that develop on the plates overlying the shell can also be misleading. The rings do not develop equally each year, and after 10-15 years they may largely disappear.



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