Overview

Brief Summary

Summary

The Alabama red-bellied cooter, Pseudemys alabamensis (Family Emydidae), is a poorly known aquatic species, most closely allied with members of the P. rubriventris complex. It is an Alabama and Mississippi endemic, found in the lower part of the Mobile Bay Drainage Basin in Mobile and Baldwin counties, Alabama, as well as the Pascagoula River and Back Bay of Biloxi watersheds in Harrison and Jackson counties, Mississippi. The species was designated as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1987 and as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Threats to the species include predation by hogs, raccoons, crows, and fire ants; harvesting and collecting (including human consumption of eggs); destruction of submerged vegetation beds by dredging; pollution and development; destruction of nesting habitat; bulkheading of bayous (preventing access of females to upland nesting sites); incidental capture by recreational fishermen on baited hooks; and injury from boat propellers and vehicular traffic. A recovery plan for the species was approved in 1990. Pseudemys alabamensis is the Official State Reptile of Alabama.
  • Leary, C.J., Dobie, J.L., Mann, T.M., Floyd, P.S., and Nelson, D.H. 2008. Pseudemys alabamensis Baur 1893 – Alabama red-bellied cooter, Alabama red-bellied turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (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. 019.1-019.9, doi:10.3854/crm.5.019.alabamensis.v1.2008, 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: (1000-5000 square km (about 400-2000 square miles)) Formerly throughout the lower part of the Mobile River system below David Lake, Baldwin and Mobile counties, Alabama; as far north as the Little River State Park in southern Monroe County, and perhaps east into the Florida Panhandle as far as Apalachee Bay. Current distribution: Mobile Bay and tributary streams, Baldwin and Mobile counties, Alabama; apparently most abundant from Hurricane Landing on Tensaw River south to northern part of Mobile Bay north of Interstate Highway 10 (Dobie and Bagley 1988). The primary nesting site for this species is reported to be Gravine Island in Baldwin County, but there are several additional nesting locations, such as the Mobile Bay Causeway (Nelson 2003).

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Range Description

Formerly throughout the lower part of the Mobile River system below David Lake, Baldwin and Mobile counties, Alabama; as far north as the Little River State Park in southern Monroe County, and perhaps east into the Florida Panhandle as far as Apalachee Bay. Current distribution: Mobile Bay and tributary streams.
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USA. Restricted to the lower Mobile Bay drainage of southwestern Alabama and the Biloxi drainage of southeastern Mississippi.
  • Leary, C.J., Dobie, J.L., Mann, T.M., Floyd, P.S., and Nelson, D.H. 2008. Pseudemys alabamensis Baur 1893 – Alabama red-bellied cooter, Alabama red-bellied turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (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. 019.1-019.9, doi:10.3854/crm.5.019.alabamensis.v1.2008, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt
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Continent: North-America
Distribution: USA (Mobile Bay, Alabama, Mississippi)  
Type locality: Mobile Bay, Alabama
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Historic Range:
U.S.A. (AL)

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Physical Description

Size

Length: 34 cm

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Type Information

Syntype for Pseudemys alabamensis
Catalog Number: USNM 20967
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: Female;
Preparation: Dry
Year Collected: 1885
Locality: Mobile Bay, Baldwin - Mobile, Alabama, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Baur, G. 1893. Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc. 31: 224.
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Syntype for Pseudemys alabamensis
Catalog Number: USNM 20966
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: Male;
Preparation: Dry
Year Collected: 1885
Locality: Mobile Bay, Baldwin - Mobile, Alabama, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Baur, G. 1893. Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc. 31: 224.
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Most abundant in quiet backwaters of upper Mobile Bay in areas with dense submerged vegetation, in water generally 1-2 m deep; also in river channels; occurs only as a straggler in brackish water and salt marsh areas of lower Mobile Bay (McCoy and Vogt 1985). Uses dense beds of aquatic vegetation for basking.

Nest are made on sand spoil banks, on natural levees, and along river (Dobie and Bagley 1988, Nelson 2003).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Most abundant in quiet backwaters of upper Mobile Bay in areas with dense submerged vegetation, in water generally 1 to 2 m deep; also in river channels; occurs only as a straggler in brackish water and salt marsh areas of lower Mobile Bay. Basks on dense beds of aquatic vegetation.

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.

Nelson (1998) radiotagged 43 individuals on Gravine Island and tracked them from November, 1997 to October, 1998. Most remained in the vicinity of the Island, but others moved long distances. The researchers recorded straight-line movements as far as 17.9 km north (Negro Lake Basin) and 15.8 km south (Big Bay John).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats primarily aquatic plants (Mount 1975).

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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: 1 - 5

Comments: Few known nesting areas (Nelson 2003).

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Global Abundance

1000 - 10,000 individuals

Comments: Population size is unknown but perhaps falls within the indicated range.

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General Ecology

Important nest predators include domestic pig (at least formerly) and fish crow; alligator probably preys on adults (Dobie and Bagley 1988).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Generally diurnal, though females lay eggs at night. Young probably emerge at night but also are primarily diurnal (Dobie and Bagley 1988).

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Reproduction

Lays clutch or clutches of 3-9 eggs, May to July (Behler and King 1979, Dobie and Bagley 1988).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pseudemys alabamensis

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

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled

Reasons: Restricted to northern Mobile Bay and tributary streams in Alabama; recently recorded in Mississippi; only one known major nesting site in Alabama; continued threats from predation and human disturbance.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly to moderately vulnerable.

Other Considerations: Low recruitment rate.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1+2c

Version
2.3

Year Assessed
1996
  • Needs updating

Assessor/s
Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group

Reviewer/s

Contributor/s

History
  • 1994
    Rare
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Rare
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Rare
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Indeterminate
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/16/1987
Lead Region:   Southeast Region (Region 4) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Pseudemys alabamensis , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Status

  • Leary, C.J., Dobie, J.L., Mann, T.M., Floyd, P.S., and Nelson, D.H. 2008. Pseudemys alabamensis Baur 1893 – Alabama red-bellied cooter, Alabama red-bellied turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (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. 019.1-019.9, doi:10.3854/crm.5.019.alabamensis.v1.2008, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

Comments: Apparently declining in abundance though data are not definitive. USFWS (1990) categorized the status as "unknown."

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

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Threats

Degree of Threat: High

Comments: Sensitive to disturbance when nesting and basking. Human disturbance (camping, off-road vehicles) in major nesting area and harvest may be significant (Dobie and Bagley 1988, USFWS 1987). Egg predation by pigs and fish crows is another threat, as is shooting.

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Management

Biological Research Needs: Little is known about the behavior and ecology of this turtle.

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Global Protection: Unknown whether any occurrences are appropriately protected and managed

Comments: No critical habitat has been designated. Nests in Meaher State Park (Nelson 2003). May exist in Little River State Park, Alabama.

Needs: Protect principal habitat (especially nesting site). Restrict recreational use of nesting site. Eliminate/reduce predation by humans and other animals. See Dobie and Bagley (1988) for draft recovery plan (finalized in 1990).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: Eggs and adults sometimes are harvested for pet trade or human food (Dobie and Bagley 1988).

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Wikipedia

Alabama red-bellied cooter

The Alabama red-bellied cooter (Pseudemys alabamensis) or Alabama red-bellied turtle, is native to Alabama.[1][2] It belongs to the Emydidae turtle family. It is the official reptile of the state of Alabama.[4]

Life history[edit]

The red-belly inhabits the fresh to brackish waters of the Mobile-Tensaw delta in Mobile and Baldwin counties.[2] It feeds on aquatic vegetation[5] and can be found sunning itself on logs. Nesting of the red-bellied turtle occurs from May through July. Female turtles lay their eggs on dry land, digging nests in sandy soil, where 4 to 9 eggs are laid. Hatchlings usually emerge during the summer. However, when the turtles nest in late July, hatchlings may overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring.[citation needed]

A mature female can be 14 inches, while a mature male can be 12 inches.[6]

Location[edit]

As of June 2009 the turtle has been seen in the central part of Alabama, in the Elmore County region.[citation needed]

This turtle has also been found in south-eastern Mississippi,[7] in Harrison and Jackson counties.[8]

Protection[edit]

A 3.4 miles (5.5 km) chain-link fence has been constructed along the US 98 causeway (Battleship Parkway) that separates the Mobile-Tensaw delta from Mobile Bay.[9] Hatchling deaths dropped 80% from 2007 to 2008.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Rhodin 2011, p. 000.181
  2. ^ a b c Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (1996). Pseudemys alabamensis. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Listed as Endangered (EN B1+2c v2.3)
  3. ^ Fritz Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology 57 (2): 192. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Official Alabama Reptile". Alabama Emblems, Symbols and Honors. Alabama Department of Archives & History. 2001-07-12. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  5. ^ http://www.gdomag.com/stories.php?story=08/10/27/4668945
  6. ^ http://www.gdomag.com/stories.php?story=08/10/27/4668945
  7. ^ Southern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising Biodiversity by R. Scot Duncan, University of Alabama Press, 2013, page 367, ISBN 9780817357504
  8. ^ http://www.gdomag.com/stories.php?story=08/10/27/4668945
  9. ^ http://baldwinreport.com/2007/11/14/turtle-protectors-on-the-causeway/
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Has been placed in genus Chrysemys by some authors. See Carr and Crenshaw (1957) and Seidel (1994) for taxonomic appraisal. Mississippi population possibly is taxonomically distinctive; further study is needed (T. Mann, pers. comm., 2002).

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Subspecies

None recognized. The southeastern Mississippi population differs slightly morphologically but is not recognized as a distinct taxon; genetic phylogeographic analysis is needed.
  • Leary, C.J., Dobie, J.L., Mann, T.M., Floyd, P.S., and Nelson, D.H. 2008. Pseudemys alabamensis Baur 1893 – Alabama red-bellied cooter, Alabama red-bellied turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (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. 019.1-019.9, doi:10.3854/crm.5.019.alabamensis.v1.2008, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt
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