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Midland Painted Turtle

Chrysemys picta marginata


A painted turtle is a medium-sized water turtle. It has a smooth black or deep green upper shell (carapace) with bright red and yellow markings. The lower shell (plastron) is light yellow in color with a gray line down the center. The tail, legs, head and neck are black or dark green with red or yellow stripes.


Painted turtles can grow to be 4 to 7 inches long (10.2-17.8 cm).


  • To help them move efficiently through the water, Painted Turtles have flat shells and webbed feet.
  • Turtles can pull their heads and legs into their shells as protection from predators.
  • Turtles have no teeth to chew with, but they do have bony plates on their jaw that help them to grab their food.


In the wild, the painted turtle eats a variety of plants and small animals including fish, insects, and crustaceans. At Cosley Zoo, the painted turtle is fed crickets, earthworms, and commercial reptile pellets.


Most mating occurs in the spring. Females nest from late May until July, seeking sunny sites near the water that have slightly moist sand or soil. The female lays between 4 and 20 (usually 7 or 8) elliptical, soft-shelled eggs in the nest cavity and carefully covers them. The eggs hatch in about 70 to 80 days.

Shelter and space needs:

Painted turtles live in ponds, lakes, marshes, and slow-moving streams and rivers. They prefer shallow water with a muddy bottom and ample aquatic vegetation. Often, they will move over land to find suitable habitat.

Life expectancy:

Painted turtles can live to be 35-40 years old.

Relationship with man:

Painted turtles are important components of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems. Besides being important predators of numerous small animals, they are also a food source for a variety of predators including raccoons, otters, mink, and foxes.

Fun Facts:

  • The painted turtle is one of the most common turtle species in North America.
  • Painted turtles must be in the water while they eat. Their tongues do not move freely, so they need to be underwater to swallow.
  • A turtle’s shell is made up of about 60 bones. If you look closely at a turtle’s upper shell, you can see a raised line running from head to tail. This line is the turtle’s backbone.
  • In many types of turtles, including painted turtles, the incubation temperature determines the sex of the hatchlings. More females are produced at higher incubation temperatures and more males are produced at lower incubation temperatures.
  • The painted turtle is the Illinois state reptile.

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