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Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins of Louisiana

Updated on November 3, 2016
naturegirl7s profile image

Louisiana has abundant wildlife, including reptiles such as snakes and turtles. All are welcome in Yvonne's backyard wildlife habitat.

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.

Ancient Chelonia


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.

Turtle Poll

What is your favorite kind of turtle?

See results
Turtles of the Southeast (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book Ser.)
Turtles of the Southeast (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book Ser.)
Another in the fabulous series of books about reptiles and amphibians which contains full color illustrations and excellent information about turtles of the southeastern United States. A must for any turtle lover.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtles

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

Mud Turtles

Mississippi Mud Turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis

Razor-backed Musk Turtle, Sternotherus carinatus

Stripe-necked Musk Turtle, Sternotherus minor peltifer

Striped neck musk


Musk turtles emitt and unpleasant odor when disturbed, hence the common name "stink pot".

Common Musk Turtle, Sternotherus odoratus

Common Musk


Photo references for the pictures above include the Stripe-necked Musk Turtle from University of Georgia and the Common Musk Turtle from

Aquatic Turtles: Sliders, Cooters, Painted, and Map Turtles (Reptile Keeper's Guide)
Aquatic Turtles: Sliders, Cooters, Painted, and Map Turtles (Reptile Keeper's Guide)
Many of the most common and beautiful freshwater turtles are detailed in this information filled tome. It's a good reference for a beginner.

Map and Other Freshwater Turtles

Southern Painted Turtle, Chrysemys dorsalis

Southern Painted

I'm afraid that these may have gotten their common name because of how they taste.

Eastern Chicken Turtle, Deirochelys reticularia reticularia

Western Chicken Turtle, Deirochelys reticularia miaria

Western Chicken Turtle

Pascagoula Map Turtle, Graptemys gibbonsi

Pascagoula Map Turtle


Ringed Map Turtle, Graptemys oculifera

Ringed Map Turtle


Most map turtles have beautifully patterned shells.

Ouachita Map Turtle, Graptemys ouachitensis ouachitensis

Sabine Map Turtle, Graptemys ouachitensis sabinensis

Mississippi Map Turtle, Graptemys pseudogeographica kohnii

River Cooter, Pseudemys concinna

Red-eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans

Female Slider Laying Eggs


Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin pileata lives in the brine water along the Gulf Coast.

Diamond-back Terrapin

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 Log Solar Light with Lizard Friend Enjoying the Sunny Spot
Turtles on Log Solar Light with Lizard Friend Enjoying the Sunny Spot | Source

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

One reader thought that this was a subspecies.
One reader thought that this was a subspecies. | Source

Eastern Box Turtle - 2 Subspecies

Gulf Coast Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina major

Three-toed Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina triunguis

Three-toed Box Turtle

Three-toed box turtle photo is public domain.

Ornate Box Turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata

Ornate Box Turtle


Florida Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus

Florida Gopher Turtle

Turtle Encounters Poll

When driving and you see a turtle crossing a road, what do you do?

See results

Eastern Box Turtle

Softshell Turtles

Softshell turtles look almost other worldly. Unlike most other turtles, the body covering is more like rough skin.

Midland Smooth Softshell, Apalone mutica mutica

Smooth Softshell

Gulf Coast Smooth Softshell, Apalone mutica calvata

Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell, Apalone spinifera aspera

Pallid Spiny Softshell, Apalone spinifera pallida

Texas Spiny Softshell

Sea Turtles

Saving the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Video

Protect Sea Turtles

Sea turtle numbers are down. We must protect them before they disappear forever.
Sea turtle numbers are down. We must protect them before they disappear forever.

"Protect Sea Turtles" by GreenNeighbor on Zazzle.

We should all try to do our part to protect the majestic sea turtles.

Sea Turtles Book Nature Mall
Sea Turtles Book Nature Mall

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.


Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Caretta caretta

Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas

Green Sea Turtle

Atlantic Hawksbill, Eretmochelys imbricata imbricata

Kemp's Ridley, Lepidochelys kempi

Leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea

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.

Don't crawl away without leaving a comment.

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    • profile image


      12 months ago

      If it is safe to pull over, do so. Move the turtle across the road in the direction it was heading.

    • Casey White profile image

      Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

      3 years ago from United States

      Great, interesting article. I absolutely love turtles, especially when I'm able to assist them while they are crossing a road. Thanks!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My husband found a baby turtle when we had horrible rain for several weeks. I think she must be a hatchling that washed up out of the ground. That was 3 months ago. We have been feeding her worms and fruit. My husband built a house for her. She's thriving and has become attached to me, and vise versa! I have searched the internet, but can't find a turtle that really looks like her. Can I send u a picture to see if you could identify her species?

    • profile image

      Capt. Bebop 

      5 years ago

      I stop and move it to the side of the road it was headed to. Otherwise it will try to cross again

    • HappyTom LM profile image

      Tom Christen 

      7 years ago from Switzerland/Ecuador

      What a great lens! Thank you so much for sharing! So informative and interesting! Very good! Keep going...

    • suepogson profile image


      7 years ago

      Shells like jewels -I love them. So pretty! I hope their environment can be better protected. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks

    • naturegirl7s profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L B 

      7 years ago from Covington, LA

      @anonymous: Cool and congratulations. Gopher tortoises are becoming uncommon in Louisiana.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      watching a gopher tortoise lay eggs in our yard this evening - 5/19/13

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      wa1tching a gopher tortoise lay eggs in our yard this evening - at least I Id'ed her as a gopher tortoise


    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 

      7 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I don't really have a favoitire turtle. They do all look pretty similar. I guess I pretty much liked the small turtles who used to come share my chips (french fries to many of you) when I lived in Australia. We don't get turles in the UK, I don't think. Not wild anyway. Maybe a few pets released into the wild which have survived. An i teresting lens though.

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 

      7 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I don't really have a favoitire turtle. They do all look pretty similar. I guess I pretty much liked the small turtles who used to come share my chips (french fries to many of you) when I lived in Australia. We don't get turles in the UK, I don't think. Not wild anyway. Maybe a few pets released into the wild which have survived. An i teresting lens though.

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      What a wonderful page on tortoises and turtles! I love them and it was interesting learning more and love all the pictures of them too. Angel Blessed :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What a wonderful, in-depth article. Liked!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      So cute, these animals!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Amazing lens. Love the various photos and illustrations.

      We don't really have turtles here in Scotland, but we spent a couple of years in Brazil and the pond at the local park was full of them. My kids used to love the way that they would swim over to you and bob up and down waiting for you to throw them food.

    • SharpLee profile image


      7 years ago

      I love tortoises and turtles! Great lens! I hope to keep improving my California desert tortoise lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      very interesting... have never seen those smooth soft shell turtles before and I love the baby costume! ;-)

    • CoffeeDude LM profile image

      CoffeeDude LM 

      8 years ago

      What a great lens! I never realized the diversity of the turtle community. Beautiful pictures.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow so many beautiful turtles at one place - thanks for sharing them

    • naturegirl7s profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L B 

      8 years ago from Covington, LA

      @anonymous: Thanks for the comment. You may be right. The turtle in the first box turtle picture (by naturegirl7) was "rescued" from a damp classroom aquarium in an elementary school. We released it on our 9 acres. It didn't quite fit all the identification marks, but I thought it safe to classify it as an Eastern Box turtle. It was such a handsome one.

      The teacher said that it came from SC or another state in that area of the U.S. Sadly, it did not live but for a year or so after release. I think the months it spent in that aquarium eating "turtle food" weakened it.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nature girl, I think you have a three toed box turtle judging by the coloration of the head, or perhaps a hybrid of a three toed and an ornate, It it is not an eastern box turtle, which tend to have yellow mottled heads and larger blotches of yellow on the shell. There are numerous hybrids due to people carrying these creatures across country and then letting them go and almost all subspecies of terrapene interbreed in captivity.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I learned something. I had never heard of a soft shell turtle before. Interesting lens.

    • PlethoraReader profile image


      8 years ago from Silicon Valley

      Great information here, will have new appreciation when I see my next title. Blessed.

    • naturegirl7s profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L B 

      8 years ago from Covington, LA

      @PlethoraReader: Thank you so much. I'm glad you took away something... and both the turtles and I thank you for your kind blessing.

    • profile image

      looniestlove lm 

      8 years ago

      great lens about turtle, very informative and educational, very helpful as well, thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens on the photos and the detail on each one!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a beautiful lens! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      love turtles. beautiful lens..........

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Love your lens, it reminds me of a poem by Anders GJ Rhodin:

      âTortoises in the mist

      timeless creatures, moisture-kissed

      neath shrouded trees and mossy lace

      since eons past, still exist.

      On crater rim, a magic place

      tortoises move, at their pace

      from caldera floor below

      ponderous steps, gentle grace.

      Ringed by fire, lava flows

      spared the whalersâ deadly blows

      survive serene, Alcedo home

      enchanted isles, Galápagos.â

    • profile image

      CelebStyle LM 

      9 years ago

      Great lens! Informative and loved all the pictures.

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 

      9 years ago from Redcar

      Really enjoyed my visit.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      9 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      We have a 22 year old tortoise. love turtles.

    • profile image

      pimbels lm 

      9 years ago

      A great lens, thank you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Just did a lens on the Fly River Turtle, and thought I would check out some other turtle lenses, since I am a newbie. Nice Lens.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      9 years ago


    • MamaBelle profile image

      Francis Luxford 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Lovely images and a great lens!

    • River88 profile image


      9 years ago

      Your photos are beautiful, especially the baby costume one, how cute! You've provided so much information and done it very well. Thank you.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      9 years ago from United States

      Great photos! I laughed when I saw the baby costume. What a cute idea.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 

      10 years ago from London

      They are gorgeous, and this lens is wonderfully made. congratulations on your purple.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Nice touch with the turtle outfit for babies! I love turtles!! Great pics.

    • naturegirl7s profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L B 

      10 years ago from Covington, LA

      Congratulations on the purple star.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is such an important and well-done lens. It needs more visitors!

    • norma-holt profile image


      10 years ago

      Fantastic lens and well crafted with lots of superb information and pictures. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Turtles are fascinating creatures. Sea turtles are my favorite.

      Thanks for sharing


    • pkmcruk profile image


      10 years ago from Cheshire UK

      What a fantastic and incredibly informative lens and that turtle costume at the end made me laugh out loud - thank you! Blessed by a Squid Angel :-)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      nice site. as a child living in Nairobi we had a giant tortoise in our garden and us kids could ride around on it. i will always remember that!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Beautiful lens!

    • ZenandChic profile image


      10 years ago

      I love turtles especially sea turtles!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      We all need to stick our heads out of our shells and look around at all the wonderful creatures that live just outside our door. Thank you so much for sharing the turtles, tortoises and terrapins of Louisiana.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Wow! They're actually kind of cute. :) And I had no idea there were so many different kinds of turtles. Their shells are quite amazing pieces of art when you see such a number of them together. Nice job!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      11 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Absolutely superb! Blessed by an Angel today (

    • Laddoo LM profile image

      Lloyd Pinto 

      11 years ago from Mumbai

      Really cool lens about turtles. 5* and a fave!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Gee 

      11 years ago

      Really informative lens about turtles. I have a lens about how some animals should not be pets because they can make you ill. How do you feel about turtles as pets?

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This lens is beautiful and interesting, The pictures are wonderful and you provided so much great information.

      Great job !


    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 

      11 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Beautiful lens...very well done and I love all those pictures...5*s!

    • oneskms profile image


      11 years ago

      Very nice lens

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 

      11 years ago from Croatia

      Beautiful use of colors - brown and green go well together! Love those little turtles... they are cute!

    • profile image

      luvmyludwig lm 

      11 years ago

      beautiful lens. I love turtles!

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      11 years ago

      Very nicely done lens, well worth 5*


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