Three-toed Box Turtle

Terrapene carolina triunguis

Summary 6

The Three-toed box turtle(Terrapene carolina triunguis) is a subspecies within the genus of hinge-shelled turtles commonly referred to as box turtles. This subspecies is native to the south-central part of the United States and is the official reptile of the state of Missouri.

Behavior 7

Three-toed box turtles are known to migrate seasonally in order to maintain their preferred humidity level. In Arkansas, three-toed box turtles were observed in grasslands in late spring, while in early spring, summer, and late fall they were found in forested areas. During dry times, they dig shallow burrows into leaf litter to conserve moisture. When water is available, these turtles soak for longer periods of time than any of the other subspecies.

Description 7

Three-toed box turtles are so named due to the number of toes on the back feet, but some think that there are some 4-toed examples too. However, some speculate that the 4-toed individuals are actually Eastern box turtle × three-toed box turtle hybrids. Three-toed box turtles have a domed shell which grows to an average 4.5 to 5 inches in length. The record shell length for this subspecies is 7 inches. The highest part of its carapace or upper shell is more posteriorly positioned than in the other subspecies.

The dorsal and limb coloration is commonly completely absent, although some dark blotches are common in adult turtles. These areas more often being a uniform olive green or tan color. Sometimes, faint yellow dots or lines are visible in the center of each large scute. In the males, the head and throat often display yellow, red, or orange spots. Frequently the bottom shell or plastron is a straw yellow color, and has far fewer dark markings than the plastrons of other subspecies.

Diet 7

These turtles are omnivores, their diets varying with availability of food sources and the seasons. They are known to eat earthworms, insects, snails, slugs, strawberries, mushrooms, and green-leafed vegetation. They have been observed eating the eggs of quail. It should be noted however that all box turtles will prefer live foods to vegetation.

It has also been speculated that these turtles eat poisonous mushrooms, but are not themselves sickened by the mushroom's toxins. Afterwards, the turtles then become poisonous themselves. Carr believes this to be the reason why a group of boys in Mississippi became ill after eating roasted three-toed box turtles.

As pets, they have been reported to eat mealworms, corn, melon, crickets, waxworms, tomatoes, cooked eggs, fruit, and even moist dog food. They can be shy about being watched while eating, and may stop and stare back motionless if this happens.

Distribution and habitat 7

From the west to the east of its range, the three-toed box turtle can be found from eastern Texas the northern edge of the Florida Panhandle. Its northernmost habitat is in Missouri and Kansas, while the southernmost is in Louisiana. Three-toeds interbreed with other subspecies of eastern box turtles which overlap the borders of this area. An example of this occurs in the eastern Mississippi valley where this species is difficult to distinguish from the common box turtle. Being popular in the pet trade, three-toeds are sometimes found well outside of their home range. It is not known whether such captives when released into the wild have any impact on the local species of such areas. These turtles are adaptive, and are possibly the only box turtle who can live happily in an indoor enclosure.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) dcp, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND),
  2. (c) James Parham, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  3. (c) jmandecki, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  4. (c) jmandecki, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  5. (c) Connor Travis, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  6. Adapted by John P. Friel from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  7. Adapted by John P. Friel from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),

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