European pond turtle

European pond turtle

Profile

The European pond turtle is a medium-sized reptile living in the southern half of Europe. The turtle shown above has a black shell, but not all of these turtles are that color. Some of them are brown, like the one pictured below, while others are olive. There are currently 14 different subspecies of this turtle, though the way they are divided is controversial. I won’t waste your time by listing all the subspecies here. I will say, though that the subspecies are divided based on appearance. Different subspecies have different sizes, colors, or markings. Although these turtles can be many different colors, one of their distinguishing features is the yellow markings on their head and shell. Despite this being a distinguishing feature, not all subspecies have these yellow spots, but most of them do. Another difference these turtles have is the color of their eyes. Females usually have yellow eyes, but males can have red, yellow, or white eyes depending on the region where they live. Below is a picture of some European pond turtles that are brown, and they can be many other colors as well.Brown european pond turtle

Size

These turtles have shells that can be from 5 to 15 inches (12-38 cm). This largest length is rarely reached by these turtles. Most of these turtles are closer to about 10 inches (25 cm) long at the shell. This is just the shell length, and it does not include the head or tail in the measurement. Females are usually smaller than the males. Adults weigh a little over 2 pounds (about 1 kg).

Diet

European pond turtles are carnivorous reptiles. They are not extremely picky about what animals they eat. Most of the time they will hunt underwater for creatures such as fish, amphibians, tadpoles, worms, and crustaceans. They may even sometimes feast on mammals that fall into the water. In the wild, they normally do not eat anything that is not moving. In captivity, they have been known to eat fruits and vegetables, but they are usually fed fish, shrimp, worms, processed meat, mice, and sometimes commercially prepared pellets or dog food.

These turtles are known to be extremely aggressive when it comes to capturing food. One of them attacks by turning its head sideways and biting the prey. It then tears its food to shreds using its sharp front claws.

Habitat and range

As shown in the map below, these turtles live in much of Europe as well as a little bit in Asia and Africa. They only inhabit a tiny bit of Africa, the parts just south of Spain and of Italy. The also live in the middle eastern countries of Asia, such as Turkey and Iraq. The European pond turtle lives in such a wide area that the climates vary widely. In the northernmost parts of their range, they must hibernate to survive the winter. In other places further south, they must go dormant during the summer to escape the extreme heat! This practice of going dormant in the summer is called aestivation.

European pond turtle map

As with most turtles, these animals live in areas with plenty of freshwater. Sources of this water can include ponds, lakes, rivers, and even drainage canals. Large bodies of water are best, and they also prefer the water to be slow moving. Plenty of vegetation as well as sandy areas are needed for when these turtles nest. The European pond turtle only leaves the water it calls home when it needs to for basking or nesting.

Status and threats

The European pond turtle is classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Redlist. This may seem like a bad situation for the turtle to be in, but Near Threatened is actually just one step below Least Concern. The wide range of this reptile makes it seem abundant, and it also has several populations of high density. This may make it seem more abundant than it actually is. The populations with a lot of turtles in them are becoming rarer, and many smaller populations are shrinking in size. One of the biggest threats this turtle faces is pollution of the water it lives in. There are several types of pollution including pollution form agricultural chemicals, industrial runoff, and even from residential sources. The introduction of non-native turtle species, such as the red-eared slider, is also a threat. The other turtles compete for food and basking areas making it harder for the European pond turtle to live.

Predators and protection

There are also many natural threats these animals face. Although they have shells, and can withdraw into them completely, these turtles still fall prey to many creatures. Alligators, coyotes, dogs, bears, raccoons, and foxes can eat the adults, while the young and eggs are eaten by fish, large birds, snakes, cats, and crocodiles. Some European pond turtles are captive bred, so if their population in the wild gets too low, they can be reintroduced.

Reproduction

European pond turtles that hibernate in the winter usually wake up around the end of March. Mating season usually starts around this time, but it sometimes does not start until May. When it actually does start is dependent on the latitude and the weather where the individuals live. After mating, the females may wait a few months to lay their eggs, but she usually lays them by the end of June. At this time, she lays between three and sixteen eggs, usually around ten. The eggs are laid in a small hole dug in the ground. The incubation period varies widely and can be anywhere from eight to thirteen weeks. Once the young turtles hatch, they usually come out of the nest, but they sometimes stay in the nest for the winter and emerge the next spring. These turtles need long, hot summers in order to reproduce, otherwise the eggs or young may not survive the cold. In extreme northern areas, this may only happen every four or five years. Luckily for these turtles, they can survive for more that 100 years, giving them many chances to reproduce.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

Indian_wild_dog_by_N._A._Naseer

Sources:

Photo credits:

  • European pond turtle – Pascal Blachier
  • Brown European pond turtle – Bernard DUPONT
  • European pond turtle range – Ninjatacoshell
  • Mystery animal – N. A. Naseer
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