Overview

Brief Summary

Summary

The Florida red-bellied turtle, Pseudemys nelsoni (Family Emydidae), is a moderately large turtle (carapace length to 37.5 cm) that is relatively abundant in freshwater wetlands throughout peninsular Florida and extreme southeastern Georgia. The species is one of the largest emydids in North America, with females (to 37.5 cm) typically growing larger than males (to 30 cm). The post-hatchling diet consists almost entirely of aquatic plants. Mature females may lay up to five clutches of approximately 10 to 20 eggs each during May through August of each year. Direct human exploitation of the species seems to have been low in the past, but this threat may have increased in the previous decade in conjunction with growing demand by the Asian market for turtle meat. The pet trade market for hatchlings also expanded in the 1990s, with most of the demand met by take of natural nests. Recent regulations governing the harvest of turtles and eggs in Florida, however, should stem nearly all legal take in the future. The greatest potential threats to the species are pollution and drainage or alteration of wetland habitats. Although population status data are unavailable, there is no reason to believe that the species is unduly threatened.
  • Jackson, D.R. 2010. Pseudemys nelsoni Carr 1938 – Florida red-bellied turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 041.1–041.8, doi:10.3854/crm.5.041.nelsoni.v1.2010, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt
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Distribution

endemic to a single nation

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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: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Florida, from Suwannee River area south; disjunct population in Florida Panhandle.

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Range Description

Pseudemys nelsoni is found throughout peninsular Florida, in the Okefenokee Swamp of southern Georgia, and in an isolated population in the Florida panhandle, near Tallahassee. Introduced populations have been reported from San Marcos, Texas, and Tortola, British Virgin Islands (Jackson 2010).

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USA. Distributed in peninsular Florida and southeastern Georgia.
  • Jackson, D.R. 2010. Pseudemys nelsoni Carr 1938 – Florida red-bellied turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 041.1–041.8, doi:10.3854/crm.5.041.nelsoni.v1.2010, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt
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Continent: North-America
Distribution: USA (from the Okefenokee Swamp in S Georgia west to Apalachicola, Florida, and south through peninsular Florida; introduced to Texas)  
Type locality: Fellsmere, Indian River County, Florida.
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Physical Description

Size

Length: 34 cm

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Ponds, lakes, ditches, sloughs, marshes, mangrove-bordered creeks; usually in water with abundant aquatic vegetation. Nesting may occur away from water; often nests in alligator nests (Ashton and Ashton 1985).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology

Pseudemys nelsoni inhabits a variety of freshwater habitats with abundant vegetation, including ditches, wetlands, marshes, ponds, lakes, and streams, mangrove-bordered creeks slow-flowing rivers and spring runs. Some individuals occur in brackish (30% saltwater) situations.

Pseudemys nelsoni is strictly herbivorous after its early juvenile years, feeding on a variety of aquatic plants.

Females average 30.5 cm carapace length (CL) and 4 kg body mass; the largest reported female was 37.5 cm CL, while males can reach to 30 cm CL. Females mature at about 27-29 cm CL at an age of seven to eight or more years, males from 19-23 cm CL and a minimum of three years onwards. Adult females produce three to six clutches of on average 14.6 (range 7-26) eggs annually, for a mean annual reproductive output of 64.4 eggs (Jackson 2010). Hatchlings measure about 32 (28-38) mm CL.


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

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: Adults primarily herbivorous, young more animalivorous. May scavenge on dead fishes.

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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

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Global Abundance

100,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Common in much of Florida (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

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General Ecology

In a Florida spring run, home range length generally was 120 m; in a lake, home range size was an order of magnitude larger (Kramer 1995).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Active all year. Spends much of day basking.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 26.1 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Lays 12 to 30 or more eggs; egg laying peaks in late spring and early summer (Ashton and Ashton 1985).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

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

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2011

Assessor/s
van Dijk, P.P.

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

Pseudemys nelsoni has been assessed as Least Concern as it has a moderately sizeable distribution across most of Florida and part of Georgia, with populations reportedly stable and well-represented in extensive protected areas.

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Status

IUCN 2009 Red List: Not Listed (= Least Concern, LR/lc) (assessed 1996, needs updating); CITES: Not Listed; US ESA: Not Listed.
  • Jackson, D.R. 2010. Pseudemys nelsoni Carr 1938 – Florida red-bellied turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 041.1–041.8, doi:10.3854/crm.5.041.nelsoni.v1.2010, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%

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Population

Population

Pseudemys nelsoni is generally abundant in suitable habitat and may be the numerically dominant freshwater turtle; densities of 4-22 individuals per hectare have been reported from open, suboptimal habitats to 78 animals/ha in prime locations. Overall, populations appear to be mostly stable ( Jackson 2006, 2010).

NatureServe (2006) considered the species as abundant throughout peninsular Florida and especially common in the Everglades, and assessed it as G5, or Least Concern, in 1996.


Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Low

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Major Threats

Pseudemys nelsoni has been reported as subject to a variety of impacts, including habitat degradation due to pollution and wetland loss, collection for pet trade and local human consumption, accidental mortality from cars and boat propellers, and increased predation levels.

Impacts from invasive nest predators (fireants) and possibly subsidized native predators (i.e., unnaturally large populations of predators subsidized by easily available resources near human settlements), such as raccoons and possums, have been reported but appear not to represent a significant threat at present levels. Invasive non-indigenous red fire ants are known to predate on turtle nests, where they feed on pipped eggs, and sting, kill and subsequently feed on turtle hatchings (Allen et al. 2001). While this has been document for the green and loggerhead turtles, it may also threaten P. nelsoni, as this species is known to lay eggs in alligator nests, 20% of which are infested with fire ants in central Florida. A study on ant predation on P. nelsoni found that in an affected nest, 70% of the hatchlings were killed by fire ants either during pipping or shortly after hatching (Allen et al. 2001).

Overall, however, the species is sufficiently adaptable to current land use patterns and non-natural mortality impacts in its range, and its overall population status appears stable. The species was assessed as G5, or Least Concern, by NatureServe in 1996 (NatureServe 2006).

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Management

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

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions

Pseudemys nelsoni inhabits several large protected areas, including the Everglades National Park, Okefenokee NWR, and several State or local authority protected areas.

Minimizing wetland isolation and loss, mitigating the impacts of roads and residential developments near waterbodies, ensuring connectivity between wetlands and turtle populations, baseline distribution and population status surveys, and monitoring of sample populations, would all be highly desirable conservation measures (Jackson 2006, 2010).


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Wikipedia

Florida red-bellied cooter

The Florida red-bellied cooter or Florida redbelly turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni) is a species of the genus Pseudemys.

Its range is in Florida, and southern Georgia. The Florida redbelly cooter is mainly herbivorous, and can be found in nearly any type of aquatic habitat. It reaches particularly high densities in spring runs, and occasionally can be found in brackish water. This species is active year-round and spends a large portion of the day basking on logs. They are noted for sometimes laying their eggs in the nest mounds of alligators.

The Florida redbelly is closely related to the Peninsula cooter (Pseudemys floridana) and can often be found basking on logs together. The Florida redbelly can be distinguished from the other turtles by its distinctive red-tinged plastron (belly) and two cusps (like teeth) on its upper beak. Like most Pseudemys turtles, this species is a fairly large river turtle. Carapace length in mature turtles can range from 20.3 to 37.5 cm (8.0 to 14.8 in).[2] Females, which average 30.5 cm (12.0 in) in length and weigh 4 kg (8.8 lb), are noticeably larger than males, which are around 25 cm (9.8 in) and 1.8 kg (4.0 lb) in mass.[3][4]

Florida redbellies are commonly exported for consumption and the pet trade, with about 50% wild caught individuals and 50% captive bred.

Most of US export statistics (as collected by the World Chelonian Trust in 2002-2005) simply describe exported turtles by its genus, Pseudemys, without identifying the species. They are exported by the million, and are mostly farm-raised.[5]

Female cooter basking

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fritz Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology 57 (2): 195. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ Declared Turtle Trade From the United States - Pseudemys sp.
  • Florida red-bellied cooter Southeast Ecological Science Center.
  • Ernst, C.H., R.W. Barbour and J.E. Lovich. 1994. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Hubbs, C. 1995. Springs and spring runs as unique aquatic systems. Copeia. 1995(4): 989-991.
  • Reed, R.N. and J.W. Gibbons. 2004. Conservation status of live U.S. nonmarine turtles in domestic and international trade – a report to: U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Aiken, SC, Savannah River Ecology Lab: 1-92.9ygvm8yhb8uhbm8ghb
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Sometimes has been placed in genus CHRYSEMYS. See Seidel (1994) for a morphometric analysis and taxonomic treatment of the genus PSEUDEMYS.

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