IUCN threat status:

Near Threatened (NT)

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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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Source: ARKive

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