Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)
- The red-eared slider is perhaps the best known and most recognizable of turtles. It is a medium sized turtle with a dark green oval shell, marked with yellow in younger turtles, green legs with thin yellow stripes and a green head with a red stripe behind the eye
- Life History
- Red-eared sliders are Texas's most common aquatic turtles. These turtles get their name from a broad red stripe behind their eye and their habit of sliding off rocks and logs when startled. Older turtles are often covered with a thick coat of algae. Some red-eared sliders live more than 30 years.
Sliders are cold-blooded and spend hours sunning themselves on rocks and logs. If there are not enough rocks or logs for all of them they will often stack themselves one on top of the other! They bury themselves in loose soil or mud during the winter to escape the cold. When population numbers get high, these turtles move across land to other bodies of water in search of food and space. They eat aquatic plants, small fish, and decaying material.
Female turtles lay their eggs in holes that they dig in the ground and leave. Young turtles are born having to take care of themselves. Baby red-eared sliders were once very popular as children's pets until it was discovered that some of them carried the disease, salmonella. It is now illegal to sell sliders less than 4 inches in diameter. Most wild animals make very poor pets and are best observed in their native habitat.
A turtle's shell is actually made up of its ribs joined together and covered with a thin layer of skin. Each of the ribs is made of jigsaw-like sections called scutes, which grow at the edges. This allows the turtle to increase in size without outgrowing its shell. Mature males have long toenails on their front feet that they use when courting females. The males swim backwards in front of females and fan water over their faces.
Sliders have poor hearing but are very sensitive to vibrations. This makes it hard to sneak up on them. Their name, slider, comes from the fact that they are quick to slide off of rocks, logs or the banks if danger threatens.
- Red-eared sliders are found in most permanent slow-moving water sources with mud bottoms in the eastern three quarters of the state.
- They range from Indiana to New Mexico down through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. They are widely distributed throughout Texas except for the far western region.
- In many Native American creation stories, the land on which they lived was the back of a huge turtle floating in a vast sea. Turtles were considered sacred and never killed. The thirteen pieces on some turtle's shells are thought to represent the thirteen moons of the year.