IUCN threat status:

Endangered (EN)

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Biology

Spotted turtles spend the winter hibernating, sometimes communally, usually on the muddy bottoms of fairly shallow waterways characterised by a slow, steady flow of water (6). Individuals are most commonly seen in spring when basking on logs, stumps, grass mats and tussocks, or searching for nest sites (2) (6) (7). Courtship and mating activity begins soon after emergence from winter dormancy, with copulation usually occurring in shallow waters (3), and typically involving the male chasing the female, often nipping her legs and shell margins (6). Multiple males may also fight with each other for the right to court a single female (6). Breeding can occur throughout the active season, but peaks in late May to early June (2), and sperm is stored until needed to fertilize the eggs (7). Nesting occurs from mid- to late June, primarily at night (2). Clutches of two to seven eggs are deposited in a nest dug in sand or soft soil on rocky outcrops, in a sunny location (2). The number of clutches laid each year varies with latitude; in the north, less than one clutch per year is laid, while up to three clutches per year are laid in the south (8). The natural incubation period may last 73 to 83 days (5), with faster development at higher temperatures (3). Most young emerge from their nests in August or September, but overwintering in the nest has been reported (3) (5). The sex of hatchlings is determined by nest temperature, with cooler temperatures producing mostly males and warmer temperatures producing females (2). Meanwhile, the adults often aestivate in the mud bottom of waterways or in muskrat burrows or lodges during the hot summer months (5). It is not known exactly why these turtles aestivate, but it may be related to declines in food abundance, to avoid desiccation or to avoid predation (9). Come late October or early November, spotted turtles typically return to flooded puddles and ponds once more to over winter under the ice until late February or late April, depending on latitude (6). Spotted turtles have the potential to live up to 65 years for males and 110 years for females, but these small turtles are highly vulnerable to predation (10). When threatened they will quickly dive into the water and bury themselves in the bottom mud (11). During the winter hibernation period, muskrats are the primary predator (11). Spotted turtles feed on a variety of plant and animal foods, most of which are taken in the water. Animal matter forms the bulk of the diet and includes worms, slugs, snails, crustaceans, adult and larval insects, frogs, tadpoles and fish carrion, supplemented by algae, leaves, soft aquatic plants and water lily seeds (2) (3) (6).

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