Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins of Louisiana
Ancient Group of Reptiles
Louisiana is blessed with thirty species of turtles, tortoises and terrapins. The body form of this ancient group of reptiles has changed little in the 200 million years of its existence. Besides various freshwater and land turtles, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, along the coastal parishes, host five different species of sea turtles.
In this series of articles, we will introduce you to many of the turtles that inhabit Louisiana's land and waters and will also include book recommendations so that you may learn more about this ancient reptile.
General Description of Turtles
Turtles are an ancient group of reptiles. The most remarkable thing about most turtles is their unique exoskeleton which is composed of an upper shell, the carapace and a lower shell, the plastron. Epidermal scutes cover the shell. These are shed periodically. Underneath them are bony plates fused to the underlying ribs and vertebrae.
There are two families which inhabit Louisiana that are not arranged in this way. They are the soft-shelled turtles (Trionychidae) which have a leathery skin and little bony plate development and the marine leatherback (Dermochelys) which has a leathery skin with a mosaic of small bones (the osteoderms) underneath.
Turtles have no teeth. Their jaws are covered by keratinous tissues called the tomium, which may have toothlike projections.
All turtles lay eggs on land. The eggs may be leathery or hard shelled. Fertilization is internal.
Diets vary with some species being carnivores, some herbivores and some omnivores.
What is your favorite kind of turtle?
Snapping turtles have strong jaws which they use to capture prey. The old folks say that once they grab you, they won't let go until it thunders. Many species live to be over a 100 years old.
Eastern snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina serpentina
Alligator Snapping Turtle, Macrochelys temminckii
Alligator Snapping Turtle
Striped neck musk
Musk turtles emitt and unpleasant odor when disturbed, hence the common name "stink pot".
Common Musk Turtle, Sternotherus odoratus
Map and Other Freshwater Turtles
Southern Painted Turtle, Chrysemys dorsalis
Western Chicken Turtle
Pascagoula Map Turtle, Graptemys gibbonsi
Pascagoula Map Turtle
Ringed Map Turtle, Graptemys oculifera
Ringed Map Turtle
Female Slider Laying Eggs
More Info About Red-Eared Sliders
- Red-eared Slider Turtle of Louisiana
Red-eared Slider turtles were popular pets in the 1950s to '70s. This page has many photographs of these attractive reptiles living in their natural habitat and also information about their habits.
Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin pileata lives in the brine water along the Gulf Coast.
River Turtles Poster
River Turtles by naturegirl7 on Zazzle was taken in the Tchefuncte River near Covington, Louisiana where many species of freshwater turtles dwell.
Photo references for the pictures above include the Southern Painted Turtle and the Pascagoula Map Turtle as well as the Ringed Map Turtle, and the Mississippi Diamond-back Terrapin . More information can be found there for each.
Turtles on Log Solar Light with Lizard Friend Enjoying the Sunny Spot
Turtles on a Log Solar Light
My favorite solar garden light! By day, the three little turtles decorate our garden, near the pond. Then at night, their shells glow golden to light the way. I love these little guys and so would the turtle lover on your list. The solar panel recharges the led light during the day so they glow all night.
Land Turtles: Box and Gopher
Box and Other Land Turtles
Eastern Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina
Eastern Box Turtle
Three-toed Box Turtle
Three-toed box turtle photo is public domain.
Ornate Box Turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata
Ornate Box Turtle
More About Box Turtles
- Box Turtles of Louisiana
Through the years we have rescued many box turtle. This page has many photographs and much information about the box turtles of Louisiana including Eastern box turtle subspecies and the Ornate.
Florida Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus
Florida Gopher Turtle
More About Gopher Tortoises
- Gopher Tortoises in Louisiana
Besides the Common Box Turtle, another land turtle, the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), inhabits our area in Southeastern Louisiana. These reptiles are uncommon and are on the federally protected list in Louisiana, Mississippi and western...
Turtle Encounters Poll
When driving and you see a turtle crossing a road, what do you do?
Eastern Box Turtle
Softshell turtles look almost other worldly. Unlike most other turtles, the body covering is more like rough skin.
Midland Smooth Softshell, Apalone mutica mutica
Gulf Coast Smooth Softshell, Apalone mutica calvata
Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell, Apalone spinifera aspera
Pallid Spiny Softshell, Apalone spinifera pallida
Texas Spiny Softshell
Saving the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Video
Protect Sea Turtles
"Protect Sea Turtles" by GreenNeighbor on Zazzle.
We should all try to do our part to protect the majestic sea turtles.
Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast U.S.
Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States
Written by two of the Southeast's foremost authorities on sea turtle conservation, this is an accessible, fully illustrated guide to the species that frequent the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. No one who encounters a sea turtle soon forgets it. The leatherback, for instance, can grow to huge proportions, commonly approaching eight feet in length and more than half a ton in weight. Powerful swimmers, they are also among the deepest divers of all air-breathing sea creatures. Despite these assets, the survival of the leatherback, like that of all sea turtle species, is under constant threat from commercial fishing operations, overdevelopment of nesting grounds, pollution, and predation by introduced species. The guide opens with comprehensive coverage of the sea turtle's evolution, juvenile and adult life cycles, nesting, diet and feeding, disease and parasites, predators, and conservation issues. Each subsequent chapter is dedicated to a particular turtle species.
Green Sea Turtle
More About Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles
- Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle in Louisiana
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles are the most critically endangered of all sea turtles and are currently on the Endangered Species list. These gentle reptiles are known to nest only along the coast of Mexico and recently, Texas. Besides having a limited...
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Underwater - May they continue to swim so peacefully
Baby Turtle Toddler Costume
Such a happy little turtle. Show some turtle love with this darling costume on Halloween, Mardi Gras or book character dress-up.