Know your Michigan Turtles: Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)

Spotted Turtle

Spotted Turtle, photo by Nick Scobel

One of the most popular posts on Michigan in Pictures is Know Your Michigan Turtles, drawing around 100 people each day. Along with “Yay turtles!”, “Give the people what they want” has always been one of my philosophies so let’s get up close with one of our hard shelled neighbors. 

The UM Animal Diversity Web entry for Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) says (in part):

Spotted Turtles prefer shallow waters with a soft bottom substrate and some submergent and emergent vegetation. These can include sedge meadows, boggy ponds, fens, tamarack swamps, sphagnum seepages, and slow, muddy streams. These turtles also frequently wander on land between wetlands, and may aestivate on land for weeks at a time.

Clemmys guttata is a very small species that rarely exceeds a straight-line carapace length of 11.4 cm (4.5 inches); the maximum recorded carapace length is 13.6 cm (5.4 inches). The adult carapace is smooth, without obvious growth ridges (annuli), and is black or brownish-black with a variable number of round yellow spots. These spots may fade in old adults, and occasional specimens lack carapace spots altogether.

…Spotted Turtles become active very early in the spring, and (as noted above) are often active at relatively cold water temperatures. Activity appears to peak during April and May in the northern part of the range. Spotted Turtles tend to become inactive in the warmest part of the summer (when water temperatures exceed 30°C) and they may aestivate aquatically or terrestrially for long periods of time. During summer dormancy, the turtles may burrow into leaf litter in woodlands or open fields or marsh edges; others remain in muskrat burrows or other aquatic refuge

…Spotted turtles are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List, and they are considered threatened in the state of Michigan.

Read on for more and also see the Michigan DNR page on Spotted Turtles.

Check Nick’s photo out and see more in his Clemmys guttata slideshow which includes some pics of adult male spotted turtles. Nick runs the Herping Michigan Blog as well and has an interesting article about the recent division of the Clemmys genus into three genuses. The spotted turtles got to keep theirs with the other two being Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) & Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii).

More turtles on Michigan in Pictures!

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