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Terrapene ornata

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA REPTILIA TESTUDINES EMYDIDAE

Scientific Name: Terrapene ornata
Species Authority: (Agassiz, 1857)
Common Name(s):
English Ornate Box Turtle, Western Box Turtle
French Tortue-boîte Ornée Commune
Synonym(s):
Cistudo ornata Agassiz, 1857
Taxonomic Notes: Two subspecies are recognised: Terrapene ornata ornata (Agassiz, 1857), and Terrapene ornata luteola Smith & Ramsay, 1952

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2010-08-01
Assessor(s): van Dijk, P.P. & Hammerson, G.A.
Reviewer(s): Horne, B.D., Mittermeier, R.A., Philippen, H.-D., Quinn, H.R., Rhodin, A.G.J., Shaffer, H.B. & Vogt, R.C
Justification:

A combination of gradual habitat degradation and loss, and roadkill and other human-caused accidental mortality, combined with the species’ slow growth and very limited reproductive capacity, indicate that the species will continue if not accelerate its gradual decline across much of its range, eventually probably becoming restricted to large stretches of protected or low-impact land. At an estimated population replacement time of 25 years, three generations stretch from the end of the Wild West era up to the suburban sprawl era. Is is currently listed as Near Threatened.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Terrapene ornata inhabits most of the United States between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi, ranging southwest into the Sonora desert and north up to South Dakota and Wisconsin. (Iverson 1992, Dodd 2001).

Terrapene ornata ornata occurs throughout most of the species’ range, from the Rocky Mountains foothills eastward to localized areas of occurrences as far as southern Wisconsin and northwestern Indiana.

Terrapene ornata luteola inhabits southeastern Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas west of the Pecos, USA, and northern Sonora and much of Chihuahua in Mexico.
Countries:
Native:
Mexico (Chihuahua, Sonora); United States (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Populations of Ornate Box Turtles can be numerous, reaching densities of 6.4-15.6 animals per hectare of favourable habitat in Kansas (Legler 1960). The ssp. luteola appears to be uncommon in the Chihuahua and Sonora deserts of the United States, which Milstead and Tinkle (1967) attributed to more arid conditions and the absence of dense plant cover. However, it was perceived as common in the Mexican part of its range (G. Santos pers. comm. 2005)
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The Ornate Box Turtle is generally a ‘prairie turtle’, inhabiting treeless, sandy plains and gently rolling country with grass and scattered low brush as the dominant vegetation. It may enter woodlands, particularly along streams. Subspecies luteola in Arizona and New Mexico may also be found on the desert fringe (Ernst et al. 1994). In nature, Terrapene ornata feed mainly on insects (mainly beetles, caterpillars and grasshoppers);berries, carrion and other items are also eaten (Legler 1960, Ernst et al. 1994).

Both sexes of Ornate Box turtles may reach 15.4 cm carapace length (CL). Most males mature at about 10-11 cm plastron length (PL), and females at PL of about 11-13 cm, at ages of eight to nine and 10-11, respectively (Legler 1960). Average clutch size is 4.7 eggs in Kansas (Legler 1960) and 3.5 in Wisconsin (Doroff and Keith 1990); extremes of clutch size are two to eight. Depending on location and probably on environmental conditions, some females may produce a second clutch in a year, while many females skip reproduction for one or two years (Legler 1960, Doroff and Keith 1990). Hatchlings measure about 30 mm (range 28-32 mm). The oldest animal in a studied Kansas population was estimated to be 28 years old, and the population was estimated to have almost complete turnover in 25 years (Metcalf and Metcalf 1985). Ernst et al. (1994) reported a captive female of about 42 years of age (Ernst and Lovich 2009).

No natural history information is available on the Mexican populations.

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Substantial numbers of animals have been collected in the past for the domestic and international pet trade.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Accidental, incidental mortality by cars when crossing roads, and to a lesser extend by encounters with farm machinery and lawn mowers, was the most significant cause of adult mortality in a Wisconsin population (Doroff and Keith 1990). Long-term attrition from incidental mortality was calculated to cause a continuing decline. Habitat loss as prairies were converted to croplands, and buffalo disappeared and with them the supply of droppings and dung beetles, must have affected Ornate Box Turtle populations historically. Substantial numbers of animals have been collected in the past for the domestic and international pet trade, with potentially significant population impacts.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Terrapene ornata is included in CITES Appendix II. It is protected under a variety of US laws and regulations (review by Dodd 2001), while turtles in general are protected from exploitation under Mexican wildlife and natural resource legislation.

The species likely inhabits a substantial number of protected areas across its range, but specific details are not available and would be desirable. Very limited information is available on the status and biology of the western subspecies luteola inhabiting the Sonora and Coahuila deserts, and studies would be appropriate.

Citation: van Dijk, P.P. & Hammerson, G.A. 2013. Terrapene ornata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 22 December 2014.
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