endemic to a single nation
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Coastal Plain from Virginia to southern Florida, west to southern Alabama (Conant and Collins 1991, Seidel and Dreslik 1996).
Distribution: USA (along the Atlantic Coastal Plain in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and west across the Gulf Coastal Plain in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, E Texas, Oklahoma, SE Kansas, Arkansas, S Missouri, SW Indiana, W Kentucky, W Tennessee, Virginia)
Length: 40 cm
Comments: Large ponds, lakes, spring runs, canals, sluggish rivers; areas with abundant aquatic vegetation, soft bottom, and basking sites. Burrows in mud in winter. Generally sleeps on bottom or among aquatic plants at night. Wanders on land. Eggs are laid in nests dug in soft soil in open areas. See Bodie et al. (1996) for information on nest site selection.
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.
Comments: Adults eat mainly aquatic plants; young take animal food, become less animalivorous with age (Ernst and Barbour 1972).
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Life History and Behavior
Comments: Hibernates in winter in north, moderately active except during cold spells in south. Primarily diurnal, but may sometimes forage at night (Ernst and Barbour 1972).
Lays clutch(es) of 12-29 eggs, generally May to July but year round in Florida (Ashton and Ashton 1985). May be additional nests containing 1-3 eggs next to main nest. Eggs hatch in 80-150 days. Hatchlings may commonly overwinter in nest (Jackson 1994).
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly to moderately vulnerable.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%
Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%
Degree of Threat: Medium
Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Coastal plain cooter
The species is found within the southeastern coastal plain of the United States, from extreme southeastern Virginia southward through all of Florida and westward to the vicinity of Mobile Bay, Alabama. The nominate race (P. f. floridana) occupies most of the species' geographic range but is replaced in the Florida peninsula by the peninsula cooter (Pseudemys peninsularis), which is primarily distinguished by differences in head markings. Both races can be distinguished from sympatric Pseudemys species by the immaculate yellow color of their plastrons and the lack of a U-shaped cusp in the upper jaw (characteristic of the Florida Redbelly Turtle). The carpace length of the size ranges from 23 to 33 cm (9.1 to 13.0 in) typically and the normal weigh is (in the slightly larger females) 2.5 to 3.5 kg (5.5 to 7.7 lb). The record sized female measured 40 cm (16 in) in carapace length.
The cooter is mainly herbivorous and inhabits lakes, sloughs, ponds, slow-flowing streams, and other still bodies of water with soft bottoms and abundant aquatic vegetation. However, it can be found in high densities in some Florida spring runs, usually in heavily vegetated areas with little flow. This species is active year-round and spends a large portion of the day basking on logs.
Coastal cooters are frequently exported for consumption and the pet trade, with about 60% wild caught individuals and 40% captive bred. Recent protection by many southeastern states has curbed this exploitation but illegal harvest for local consumption may still threaten some populations.
- 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.
- Rhodin, Anders G.J.; Paul van Dijk, Peter; Inverson, John B.; Shaffer, H. Bradley (2010-12-14). "Turtles of the World 2010 Update: Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution and Conservation Status" (pdf). Archived from the original on 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2010-12-15.
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Names and Taxonomy
Comments: This species sometimes has been placed in the genus Chrysemys. It is regarded by some as the sister species of P. concinna, from which it is distinct morphologically (markings) and reproductively (at least in some areas).
Based on a morphometric analysis, Seidel (1994) recommended that floridana be regarded as a subspecies of P. concinna, with nominal P. c. suwanniensis and P. f. peninsularis recognized as full species. Seidel (1994) concluded that, due to clinal variation, nominal subspecies hieroglyphica, metteri, and mobilensis are unworthy of taxonomic recognition. Jackson (1995) presented an alternative taxonomic evaluation and strongly recommended that suwanniensis and peninsularis be retained as populations or subspecies of the distinct species P. concinna and P. floridana, respectively. See Seidel (1995) for a rebuttal. Seidel and Dreslik (1996) followed the taxonomic arrangement of Seidel (1994) except that suwanniensis was treated as a subspecies of P. concinna. Seidel and Ernst (1998), Crother et al. (2000), and Crother (2008) recognized peninsularis as a species. Jackson (2006) regarded suwanniensis and peninsularis as populations or subspecies of the distinct species P. concinna and P. floridana, respectively. Thomas and Jansen (2006) acknowledged the taxonomic debate while recognizing P. floridana as a species and P. f. peninsularis as a subspecies. Further study is needed to resolve these taxonomic discrepancies.
In the Atlantic drainages of the east-central United States, P. rubriventris is morphologically distinct from P. floridana and P. concinna, though in the southern part of its range P. rubriventris is somewhat morphologically convergent with floridana; this may reflect hybridization or convergent evolution (Seidel and Palmer 1991).
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