Pseudemys rubriventris 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Testudines Emydidae

Scientific Name: Pseudemys rubriventris (LeConte, 1830)
Common Name(s):
English Northern Redbelly Turtle, American Red-bellied Turtle, Northern Red-bellied Cooter
Pseudemys rubriventris ssp. bangsi Babcock, 1937
Testudo rubriventris LeConte, 1830
Taxonomic Notes: Isolated populations in Massachusetts were previously recognized as a separate subspecies, Pseudemys rubriventris bangsi Babcock, 1937, but recent evaluations of their taxonomic status concluded that these populations do not warrant taxonomic recognition (Iverson and Graham 1990, Fritz and Havas 2007, TTWG 2009).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2010-08-01
Assessor(s): van Dijk, P.P.
Reviewer(s): Horne, B.D., Mittermeier, R.A., Philippen, H.-D., Quinn, H.R., Rhodin, A.G.J., Shaffer, H.B. & Vogt, R.C
Pseudemys rubriventris has a moderate-sized range in a region with generally intensive industrial and residential development, with significant pressures on the integrity of its riverine and wetland habitats. The species is not abundant but appears stable at key populations; however, this species may disappear from numerous localities without the disappearance being noticed, and monitoring is important. It does not appear to meet the criteria for Vulnerable, but enough actual and potential impacts have and will influence its occurrence that the species warrants rating as Near Threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Pseudemys rubriventris primarily occurs in the Mid-Atlantic lowlands and foothill valleys of southern New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the West Virginia Panhandle, and northeastern North Carolina. Isolated populations occur at Plymouth, Carver and possibly Essex counties in Massachusetts (Iverson 1992, Ernst and Lovich 2009).

Countries occurrence:
United States (Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


In the mid-Atlantic region the Redbellied Turtle is usually seen in modest numbers; a basking aggregation of 47 individuals at the optimal habitat of the Jug Bay protected area in Maryland is the largest number recorded, and the total Jug Bay area population was estimated as at least 100 individuals, and potentially several times this, though how this population spreads and exchanges across the lower Patuxent River system remains unknown. Pseudemys rubriventris was considered locally common but much less abundant than other turtles (Chrysemys picta, Kinosternon subrubrum and Sternotherus odoratus) at Jug Bay (Swarth 2003).

The population in Pennsylvania was considered endangered due to industrial expansion, pollution, and residential development of riverside property (Ernst 1985, Saba and Spotila 2003).

The total population in Massachusetts was estimated at between 200 and 300 individuals, including juveniles indicating successful recruitment (Graham 1969, Ernst and Lovich 2009).

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Pseudemys rubriventris inhabits large deep waterbodies, such as rivers, lakes, impoundments,canals, tidally-influenced lower river areas and large wetlands as adults, while juveniles tend to occur in more sheltered, standing waters such as ponds, marshes, creeks and swamps. The presence of basking sites and extensive aquatic vegetation beds is required. (Swarth 2003).

Red-bellied turtles are nearly exclusively herbivorous, feeding on a variety of aquatic plants; juveniles take some small animal prey as well.

Females may reach up to 40 cm, but average about 30 cm and 3 kg mass; male maximum size has been reported as 29.5 cm. Age at maturity may be reached at nine years in males (Graham 1971) and 29 cm carapace length (CL), 11 years in females (Swarth 2003). Females may produce two clutches of on average 12 eggs (range 4-22) annually. Hatchlings average 32 mm CL (range 25-36) and 7.8 (4.8-11) grams. Longevity and generation time have not been estimated.

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Habitat loss and direct human-related mortality have been noted to impact the Red-bellied Turtle.

In the expansive Chesapeake Bay system, where extensive protected areas harbour this species, habitat degradation and loss factors include shore armoring at residential waterfront property, spread of Phragmites common reed and concurrent decline of Zizania wild rice, and river-borne sediment deposition and pollution (Swarth 2003). Chemical pollution and spills and habitat loss have impacted the Pennsylvania population rather severely.

Extensive incidence of shell rot disease was reported from the Rappahannock River, VA (Ernst et al. 1999). A substantial incidence (11 of 78 animals) of adult animals bearing extensive propeller scars have been reported; no information is available on the number or rate of fatal propeller injuries (Swarth 2003).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Pseudemys rubriventris in Massachusetts (as subspecies P. r. bangsi) is federally protected under the ESA as "Endangered", the species is protected from commercial take in Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania under State regulations, take is regulated (season closure and/or daily possession limits) in Virginia and West Virginia, and apparently take is open and not regulated in Delaware. 

The species inhabits many of the protected areas (federal, state and county) in the mid-Atlantic lowlands including the Chesapeake Bay region.

The Massachusetts population(s) have been subject to determined conservation efforts, including headstarting, and Haskell et al. (1996) found that juveniles headstarted past 65 mm CL had a significantly greater survival rate than hatchlings.

Alongside general measures to safeguard and where necessary rehabilitate the riverine and wetland habitat upon which the species depends, specific conservation measures should include protection from commercial exploitation throughout the species’ range, further research on conservation biology and  population dynamics, and long-term monitoring of key populations.

Errata [top]

Errata reason: An errata assessment is required to generate a revised PDF without the range map which had been included in error; no range map was available when this assessment was originally published.

Citation: van Dijk, P.P. 2011. Pseudemys rubriventris (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T18460A97427406. . Downloaded on 27 May 2018.
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