The Boxwood Turtle
There are six subspecies of box turtles including two located in Mexico. The rest are sited across United States. This research will discuss the Eastern Boxwood Turtle also known as Terrapene Carolina. Among the four turtle species located in United States, the Eastern Box turtle is mainly found in the state of Virginia. As a result, presence of Locust Grove in Virginia City is common. The species are terrestrial as they are mainly land animals. More so, the Eastern Box Turtles eat plants and animals. These include wild strawberries, honey mushroom, snails and earthworms among others. This organism profile will therefore describe and discuss the Box Turtle. It will also discuss the life cycle, distribution and habitat, diet in the wild, reproductive system and some known fun facts (Van, Flores-Villela & Howeth, 2007).
Eastern Boxwood Turtle has unique identification marks. More so, male and female species have different identification marks. Foremost, the turtle is small in size ranging between 4.5 and 6.6 inches. It is named the Eastern Boxwood Turtle due to a hinge found on the lower shell also known plastron. The hinge permits the turtle to encircle its head, tail, and legs within the upper and lower shells. The upper shell is also known as carapace. However, adult Eastern Boxwood Turtles have oval, high-domed shells. More so, the shells have inconsistent discoloration and markings. For example, the carapace is often either black with numerous irregular orange, red, and yellow blotches or dark brown in color. Conversely, plastron is dark and light with capricious patterns. However, some turtles have a complete tan of either black or brown in color. The head, leg, and neck also have diverse colored blotches including yellow mottling. The Eastern Boxwood Turtle is unique due to its short tail. More so, the upper jaw ends in a down-turned beak (MDFW, 2007).
The male Eastern Boxwood Turtle have fairly curved in plastron. However, female have horizontal plastrons. They also have longer claws on hind legs than female species. In addition, the tail is longer and thicker than female species. Hatched species have brownish gray with yellow spots on each plate or scale on the carapace. The divergent light colored mid-dorsal keel edge is also witnessed on hatchlings. The last description among Eastern Boxwood Turtles involves yellow with black central blotched plastron and a poorly developed hinge (MDFW, 2007).
Life Cycle and Reproductive System
Female Eastern Boxwood Turtles achieve sexual maturity at thirteen years. They apply opportunism to commence mating. The mating phase mainly occurs between April and October. As a result, the male species has to commence courtship. This involves the male species circling around, shoving, and biting the female turtle occasionally. Consequently, premounting and copulatory phases commence. The female species are able to store male sperms in the body for a period of four years. Thus, they are able to lay fertile eggs for a period of four years after mating (Steven, 2010).
In June or early July, females either nest or travel long distances finding an appropriate nesting habitat. They can travel up to one mile in search of the habitat while crossing roads and bushes. The nesting habitats include early successive fields, utility right of ways, roadsides, residential lawns, meadows, woodland openings, cultivated gardens mulch piles, abandoned gravel pits, and beach dunes. The females can display qualities of nest site fidelity. This involves the female laying eggs in the exact same area as the previous year. The exhibition also involves the female laying eggs at a site near last year’s area. Female species commence nesting in late afternoons and early evenings. This process continues for a period of five hours. Consequently, they deposit four or five white elliptical eggs at intervals of one to six minutes (MDFW, 2007).
The incubation stage depends on the temperatures across the nesting habitat mainly soil surfaces. Hatchlings materialize after a period of eighty-seven or eighty-nine days. Thus, hatchlings are mainly witnessed in September. Juvenile Eastern Boxwood Turtles are rare species hardly seen. Sub-adult turtles are aged amid four and five years old. They grow at an annual rate of about three quarters. This translates to half an inch per year. Adult Eastern Boxwood Turtles have a life expectancy of forty to fifty years. However, they can also live up to one hundred years old (Kimberly & Melissa, 2008).
The Eastern Boxwood Turtles hibernate in various Northern parts from October or November for a period of at least seven months. In mid March or April based on the weather, they resurface. During the period of winter across upland forests, the Eastern Boxwood Turtles bury few inches under the soil. They ensure at least a leaf, litter or wood debris cover their body surface. When soil temperatures lower, they encourage the Eastern Boxwood Turtles to hideaway further on the soft earth surface. Eventually, they appear throughout warm spells in spring and winter. However, they risk perishing if a sudden period of cold spell occurs (MDFW, 2007).
During spring, Eastern Boxwood Turtles Eggs forage and mate across the forest fields. They are particularly active during the morning and evening periods especially after a rainfall. Thus, they also seek shelter under masses of leaves, rotting logs, in mud and mammal burrows to avoid heat. On nighttime, they spend on ground surfaces formed with scooped grasses, mosses, ferns, and litters of leaves. They create domelike spaces used more often for a period of weeks. This further proves Eastern Boxwood Turtles are land animals. However, they can also reside in shallow pools for hours or days during the hot weathers (Kimberly & Melissa, 2008).
The main diet in the wild among Eastern Boxwood Turtles can be described as omnivore. The turtles are therefore mainly omnivorous as they feed on animal matter. The animal matters include insects, slugs, carrion, snails, and earthworms. However, they also prefer feeding on berries, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, seeds, leaves, and roots (MDFW, 2007).
Eastern Boxwood Turtles face various threats including destruction of habitat areas during industrial and residential development plans. Mowing of fields and lawns, collection of turtle pets, and road mortality can also destroy habitat areas. Suburban and urban areas also witness high numbers of predators disturbing nest sites. This can lead to genetic degradation of non-native turtles. Such non-native turtles should not be released, as they are capable of transmitting diseases. Thus, protecting Eastern Boxwood Turtles is vital (Steven, 2010).
Foremost, their habitats ought to be assesses and the extent, quality, and juxtaposition predicted based on the ability to support and sustain Eastern Boxwood Turtle populations. Open space habitats should be checked in relation to size, fragmentation, proximity, and connectivity to evaluate protection measures to undertake. Conserved funds should be utilized to purchase land through Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APRs) and Conservation Restrictions (CRs). This protection measure should be coupled with development and implementation of habitat management and restoration guidelines to create and maintain consistent nesting sites. Application of Forestry Conservation Management Practices on state and private lands can also reduce and prevent direct turtle mortality. Lastly, developing a statewide monitoring program can be applied to track long-term population trends among Eastern Box Turtles (Joseph, 2009).
Joseph, C. M. (2009). Sustaining America’s Aquatic Biodiversity: Turtle Biodiversity and Conservation, Virginia State University.
Kimberly, B., & Melissa, J. (2008). Eastern Box Turtles: Terrapene Carolina, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (MDFW). (2007). Eastern Box Turtles: Terrapene Carolina, Massachusetts, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.
Steven, N. (2010). Fact Sheets: Box Turtle, Museum of Zoology of the University of Michigan