Description: Red-eared sliders common name comes from the small red stripe on each side of their head behind the eyes and their ability to quickly “slide” off rocks and logs into the water. Their oval shell is divided into two sections: the olive-brown upper or dorsal carapace and the yellow lower or ventral plastron. The upper shell has numerous black and yellow lines and the lower shell has a large dark brown blotch on each scute. Their dark green head, tail and legs have narrow black and yellow irregular lines. The stripes and marks aid in camouflaging the turtles. They have webbed feet with claws and are able to pull their feet, tail and head inside their shell.
Size: Red-eared sliders are medium-sized turtles, growing to about 12 inches (30 cm). Males are smaller than females but their tails are longer.
Behavior: They are cold-blooded and must leave the water to sunbathe in order to regulate their body temperature. Red-eared sliders are excellent swimmers. At night they sleep underwater, usually resting on the bottom or floating on the surface, using their inflated throat as a flotation aid.
Diet: These turtles are omnivorous – eating a variety of aquatic plants, insects, snails, fish, carrion and other small aquatic prey.
Senses: Sliders have poor hearing but are very sensitive to vibrations. Their eyesight and sense of smell are well-developed. Nerves throughout the carapace, make it sensitive to touch.
Communication: During mating season, the courtship ritual by the male involves swimming around the female fluttering or vibrating his long claws around the female’s face or head.
Reproduction: Mating takes place under water. After mating, the female leaves the water and uses her hind legs to dig a nest hole in the soil or sand. She lays between 2-30 white round eggs and then covers them up. Incubation lasts for about 60-100 days. The hatchling uses its caruncle (egg tooth) to break open its shell. Soon after hatching the eye tooth disappears. Young turtles are born having to take care of themselves.
Habitat/range: Red-eared sliders inhabit areas with still, warm water – creeks, lakes, ponds, streams, swamps- or slow-flowing rivers. They are native to eastern and central United States and northern Mexico. They have become established in other places because of pet releases and now they are an invasive species in many areas.
Status: Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Red-eared sliders are included in the List of the World’s 100 most invasive species published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.