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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The ornate box turtle's day consists of basking, foraging and resting. After emerging from their night time burrow or concealed resting place soon after dawn, the turtle will bask for a few minutes before commencing its search for food. The ornate box turtle is primarily carnivorous, consuming insects such as beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers and even carrion, but some plant material is also eaten, such as mulberries (4), grasses, blackberries, ground cherries and prickly pears (2). It seeks shady spots to forage in and will stop foraging and seek shelter during the hottest part of the day. During summer, the turtles may spend the hot midday hours in pools of water (4). Spring is the time of courtship and mating in the ornate box turtle. This consists of a male pursuing a female for nearly 30 minutes, nudging her shell and then hurling himself on her back. The male uses the enlarged claws on his hindfeet to grip the female. Mating in this species is known to last as long as two hours (4). Nesting takes place between early May and mid-July, with a peak in June. The nests of the ornate box turtle are flask-shaped, five to six centimetres deep, and situated in open, well-drained areas with soft substrate (4). The size of the clutch ranges from one to eight eggs, with larger females generally laying more eggs. It has also been observed that T. o. ornata lays larger clutches than T. o. luteola. The brittle, white eggs are incubated for about 70 days. Ornate box turtle hatchlings measure around three centimetres long, and do not yet have a fully developed hinge on their plastron; this becomes functional by the age of four (4). Before this defence strategy can be used, the young box turtles may be more vulnerable to predation by raptors, crows, domestic cats and dogs, foxes, and racoons (2). In October, ornate box turtles begin to enter hibernation, when they move into sheltered ravines and wooded areas (4). Some dig their own burrows, often after rains when the ground is softened, or they use burrows excavated by other turtles or mammals (2), and here they will remain until they emerge in March or April (4). The lifespan of ornate box turtles is at least 32 years, and may be as many as 37 years (2).
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Description

The ornate box turtle has a domed, round or oval carapace (upper shell) that is dark brown to reddish-brown, often with a yellow stripe running down the centre. The shell is made up of bony plates, or scutes, which are patterned with yellow lines radiating from the centre. The scutes on the lower shell (plastron) also bear this pattern (4). There are two subspecies of the ornate box turtle: Terrapene ornata ornate is generally darker in colour than Terrapene ornate luteola (also known as the desert box turtle) which has a more yellowish shell (2). The plastron is hinged and can be closed completely against the carapace, allowing the turtle to completely withdraw its head and feet and enclose them within a protective 'box' (2). The fairly small head of the ornate box turtle is brown to green in colour, with yellow spots and yellow jaws. The limbs and tail are dark brown, also with some yellow spotting. Male and female ornate box turtles can be distinguished by the larger size of the female and the colour of the irises; males have red eyes while those of females are yellowish-brown (4). In addition, males have a longer, thicker tails than females and bear an enlarged claw on their hindfeet that is used during mating (2).
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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)) Range encompasses the central United States, from southeastern Wyoming to southern Wisconsin and Indiana(Lodato and Hulvershorn 2001), and south to southeastern Arizona, northern Mexico, southern Texas, and southwestern Louisiana.

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Continent: Middle-America North-America
Distribution: USA (Wisconsin, Illinois, W Indiana, Iowa, S South Dakota, SE Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, SW Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, SE Arizona), Mexico (Sonora, Chihuahua)  ornata: USA (Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kan- sas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico,Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin);
Type locality: “From the Upper Missouri . . . and from Iowa” (see “Remarks”); fi rst restricted to “Council Bluffs [Pottawattomie County], Iowa” by Smith and Taylor (1950b:36), later to “junction of the Platte and Missouri rivers” by Schmidt (1953:951), and finally to Burlington [Des Moines County], Iowa,” the locality of the lectotype, MCZ 1536, by Smith and Smith (1980:587). See Smith and Smith (1980) for a discussion of the history of the type locality designations and earlier erroneous restrictions.  luteola: Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora), USA (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas)
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Range

The ornate box turtle occurs in the United States and Mexico. T. o. ornata occurs in western Indiana and eastern Wyoming, south to south-western Louisiana and eastern New Mexico. T. o. luteola ranges from Texas and south-eastern Arizona south into north-eastern Sonora and northern Chihuahua, Mexico (4).
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Physical Description

Size

Length: 15 cm

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Type Information

Paralectotype; Syntype for Terrapene ornata
Catalog Number: USNM 57
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Yellowstone, County Undetermined, Montana, United States, North America
  • Paralectotype: Smith, H. M. & Smith, R. B. 1980. Guide to Mexican Turtles, Bibliographic Addendum III. Synopsis of the Herpetofauna of Mexico. 6: 587.; Agassiz, L. 1857. Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America, Volume 1, Part 2, North American Testudinata. 1: 445.; Syntype: Smith, H. M. & Smith, R. B. 1980. Guide to Mexican Turtles, Bibliographic Addendum III. Synopsis of the Herpetofauna of Mexico. 6: 587.; Agassiz, L. 1857. Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America, Volume 1, Part 2, North American Testudinata. 1: 445.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology

The Ornate Box Turtle is generally a ‘prairie turtle’, inhabiting treeless, sandy plains and gently rolling country with grass and scattered low brush as the dominant vegetation. It may enter woodlands, particularly along streams. Subspecies luteola in Arizona and New Mexico may also be found on the desert fringe (Ernst et al. 1994). In nature, Terrapene ornata feed mainly on insects (mainly beetles, caterpillars and grasshoppers);berries, carrion and other items are also eaten (Legler 1960, Ernst et al. 1994).

Both sexes of Ornate Box turtles may reach 15.4 cm carapace length (CL). Most males mature at about 10-11 cm plastron length (PL), and females at PL of about 11-13 cm, at ages of eight to nine and 10-11, respectively (Legler 1960). Average clutch size is 4.7 eggs in Kansas (Legler 1960) and 3.5 in Wisconsin (Doroff and Keith 1990); extremes of clutch size are two to eight. Depending on location and probably on environmental conditions, some females may produce a second clutch in a year, while many females skip reproduction for one or two years (Legler 1960, Doroff and Keith 1990). Hatchlings measure about 30 mm (range 28-32 mm). The oldest animal in a studied Kansas population was estimated to be 28 years old, and the population was estimated to have almost complete turnover in 25 years (Metcalf and Metcalf 1985). Ernst et al. (1994) reported a captive female of about 42 years of age (Ernst and Lovich 2009).

No natural history information is available on the Mexican populations.


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Comments: Ornate or western box trutles inhabit prairie grassland, pasture, fields, sandhills, and open woodland. They are essentially terrestrial but sometimes enter slow, shallow streams and creek pools. For shelter, they burrow into soil (e.g., under plants such as yucca) (Converse et al. 2002) or enter burrows made by other species; winter burrow depth was 0.5-1.8 meters in Wisconsin (Doroff and Keith 1990), 7-120 cm (average depth 54 cm) in Nebraska (Converse et al. 2002). In Wisconsin, hatchlings often were near or under rocks in dense vegetation (Doroff and Keith 1990). Eggs are laid in nests dug in soft well-drained soil in open area (Legler 1960, Converse et al. 2002).

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T. o. ornata inhabits plains and gently rolling grasslands, with scattered low brush but no trees. T. o. luteola occurs in more arid habitats, in semi-desert to desert, where it favours areas with low soil temperatures, high air temperatures, and low humidity levels (4).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: The diet of ornate box turtles includes many insects (especially beetles, grasshoppers, and caterpillars), worms, fruits, carrion (including road kill), and sometimes other sm all animals such as amphibian larvae or the eggs or chicks of ground-nesting birds (Legler 1960).

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: Many occurrences, at least 100s.

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Global Abundance

100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Often common where found, particularly in sandhills (Pope 1939).

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General Ecology

Maximum home range diameter in New Mexico was 32-526 m (mean 276 m) (Nieuwolt 1996). Home range in Kansas averaged about 2 ha (Legler 1960). Home range in Texas averaged about 100 m in diameter (Blair 1976). In Wisconsin, home range was 0.2-58.1 ha (average 9 ha) for adults, average of 1.5 ha for 3-7-year-olds, 16 sq m for hatchlings; adult annual survival rate 81%; major source of adult mortality was vehicles (Doroff and Keith 1990). Annual adult survivorship was 0.81-0.96 in Texas, 0.83 in Kansas (see Iverson 1991). Annual survival was 97% in an isolated habitat in Illinois (Bowen et al. 2004).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Most activity occurs from March to November, with a shorter season (April to September or October) in the northern part of the range (Ernst and Barbour 1972, Legler 1960, Doroff and Keith 1990). These turtles generally are active during daylight hours, but nesting activity may extend into darkness (Legler 1960). Above-ground movements often are stimulated rainfall (e.g., summer monsoon in southeastern Arizona). Evidently this species is active at lower temperatures in the north than in the south (Copeia 1993:447-455).

In New Mexico, ornate box turtles were most active at ambient temperatures of 13-24 C (Nieuwolt 1996).

In southeastern Arizona, the hibernation period (October-December to April) was contiguous with a three-month estivation period for a total annual period of subterranean refuge of about eight months; above-ground activity resumed with the summer monsoons (Plummer 2004).

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 28.4 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Mating occurs in spring or late summer/fall. Nesting occurs from May to August (mostly late May to mid-June in Nebraska (Converse et al. 2002), peaks in June in Kansas and southern Wisconsin (Doroff and Keith 1990), apparent peaks in July in New Mexico). Adult females lay 1-2 clutches of 1-8 eggs. Eggs hatch in 9-12 weeks, depending on temperature, in August or September in much of the range. In Kansas, most males are sexually mature in 8-9 years, females in 10-11 years (Legler 1960); in Texas sexual maturity is attained in 7-8 years (Blair 1976). In Wisconsin, 50-63% of adult females laid eggs in a particular year (Doroff and Keith 1990).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Terrapene ornata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
van Dijk, P.P. & Hammerson, G.A.

Reviewer/s
Horne, B.D., Mittermeier, R.A., Philippen, H.-D., Quinn, H.R., Rhodin, A.G.J., Shaffer, H.B. & Vogt, R.C

Contributor/s

Justification

A combination of gradual habitat degradation and loss, and roadkill and other human-caused accidental mortality, combined with the species’ slow growth and very limited reproductive capacity, indicate that the species will continue if not accelerate its gradual decline across much of its range, eventually probably becoming restricted to large stretches of protected or low-impact land. At an estimated population replacement time of 25 years, three generations stretch from the end of the Wild West era up to the suburban sprawl era. Is is currently listed as Near Threatened.

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread and locally common in the plains region of central North America; local populations may be depleted by heavy mortality on roads; human populations are declining in many parts of the range; appears to tolerate heavy grazing and many habitat changes; impact of the pet trade needs to be evaluated.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly to moderately vulnerable.

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Status

Classified as Lower Risk / Near Threatened (LR/nt) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Population

Population
Populations of Ornate Box Turtles can be numerous, reaching densities of 6.4-15.6 animals per hectare of favourable habitat in Kansas (Legler 1960). The ssp. luteola appears to be uncommon in the Chihuahua and Sonora deserts of the United States, which Milstead and Tinkle (1967) attributed to more arid conditions and the absence of dense plant cover. However, it was perceived as common in the Mexican part of its range (G. Santos pers. comm. 2005)

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

Comments: Believed to be stable to slightly declining, but this needs verification. Populations declined in northwestern Indiana between the 1930s and 1990s (Brodman et al. 2002).

Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 30-50%

Comments: Likely has declined moderately in abundance; area of occupancy has declined in agricultural regions.

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Threats

Major Threats
Accidental, incidental mortality by cars when crossing roads, and to a lesser extend by encounters with farm machinery and lawn mowers, was the most significant cause of adult mortality in a Wisconsin population (Doroff and Keith 1990). Long-term attrition from incidental mortality was calculated to cause a continuing decline. Habitat loss as prairies were converted to croplands, and buffalo disappeared and with them the supply of droppings and dung beetles, must have affected Ornate Box Turtle populations historically. Substantial numbers of animals have been collected in the past for the domestic and international pet trade, with potentially significant population impacts.
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Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: Locally threatened with increasing urbanization and in areas where agriculture is increasing. Roads are a major threat to box turtle populations; within a single element occurrence, hundreds may be killed by vehicles in a single year on certain interstate highways, and dozens may be run over on secondary roads (Hammerson 1999); roads also increase vulnerability to collectors (Doroff and Keith 1990). Box turtles are popular in the pet trade of Europe and SE Asia; excessive exploitation for this trade may be a significant threat. In Missouri, this species incurred a high rate of mortality as a result of prescribed burning of tallgrass prairie in late October (Frese 2003).

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While numbers of the ornate box turtle are abundant in some areas (4), in other parts of its range this species is threatened by human activities (2). The most significant threat to this turtle is the conversion of vast areas of grassland into farms and ranches (2). The ornate box turtle seems to tolerate light grazing of livestock on their grassland habitat, but the cultivation of irrigated crops, such as corn, often results in the ornate box turtle disappearing from the area (4). Agricultural development has greatly affected many populations over the last century and continues to pose an ongoing threat to this turtle (2). In addition to this extensive habitat conversion, the ornate box turtle is threatened by urban expansion, which has been encroaching on the turtle's habitat in recent decades, and road construction; roadkill is a major cause of mortality for this turtle (2). The ornate box turtle has also been impacted by collection for the commercial pet trade (2) (4). This species is said to be one of the most frequently seen box turtles in the pet trade in the United States and Europe (5), despite it apparently not surviving for very long once outside of its natural range (4). Unfortunately, law enforcement is hindered by inadequate funding, a lack of personnel and the problems associated with monitoring the extensive areas where box turtles occur (2).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Terrapene ornata is included in CITES Appendix II. It is protected under a variety of US laws and regulations (review by Dodd 2001), while turtles in general are protected from exploitation under Mexican wildlife and natural resource legislation.

The species likely inhabits a substantial number of protected areas across its range, but specific details are not available and would be desirable. Very limited information is available on the status and biology of the western subspecies luteola inhabiting the Sonora and Coahuila deserts, and studies would be appropriate.
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Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Doroff and Keith (1990) tentatively suggested that roadless areas of at least 100 ha, where collecting is effectively forbidden, are required to sustain viable box turtle populations.

Biological Research Needs: Need to determine the impacts of the pet trade.

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Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Many populations occur on protected or government-managed lands. Some occur on Nature Conservancy lands.

Needs: None indicated.

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Conservation

Although not considered globally threatened on the IUCN Red List , there are measures in place to control the detrimental effect commercial collection can have on box turtles. Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska all prohibit the commercial collection of this species, but allow some non-commercial collection. In Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin it is protected by state law and Texas is currently considering restricting collection of box turtles (2). In addition, its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) means that any international trade in this species should be carefully monitored (3). A conservation program for the ornate box turtle currently exists in Wisconsin, where the Department of Natural Resources is attempting to restore declining populations by taking eggs from the wild and raising the young in a protected environment before returning them to the wild; relocating adults from populations in Texas, Kansas and Nebraska; and using roadside barriers and signs to reduce road deaths (2) (6).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: USFWS (Federal Register, 2 February 1996) reported that approximately 10,500 T. ORNATA were reported as exported from the U.S. in 1993, 12,300 in 1994.

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Wikipedia

Terrapene ornata

Terrapene ornata is a species of North American box turtle sometimes referred to as the western box turtle or ornate box turtle.

Taxonomy[edit]

There are two subspecies of T. ornata:

Description[edit]

T. ornata have a shell that is less domed than other species of box turtle, appearing to be slightly flattened. Their coloration is generally black or dark brown, with yellow striping. T. o. luteola tends to have more striping than T. o. ornata.

Range[edit]

T. ornata ornata is found in the central United States from western Indiana, to eastern Texas and into Louisiana. T. ornata luteola inhabits the driest areas of all the box turtle species, and is found in western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and adjoining areas of northern Mexico.

Conservation[edit]

In Indiana, the ornate box turtle is listed as an endangered species.[2]

Symbol[edit]

The species became the official state reptile of Kansas in 1986.[3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (1996). Terrapene ornata. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 09 May 2006.
  2. ^ Indiana Legislative Services Agency (2011), "312 IAC 9-5-4: Endangered species of reptiles and amphibians", Indiana Administrative Code, retrieved 28 Apr 2012 
  3. ^ "2009-73-1901 Kansas Code patriotic emblems, state reptile, designation". Justia. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  4. ^ Shearer 1994, p. 315
  • Shearer, Benjamin F.; Shearer, Barbara S. (1994). State names, seals, flags, and symbols (2nd ed.). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-28862-3. 
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