Eastern and Western Box Turtle Sex Identification, by Tess Cook
T. c. carolina or Common Eastern: 4-6 inches long with a high, domed shell and
a low, middorsal keel. The carapace is usually dark brown with
orange or reddish blotches of various size and shape that form
an attractive pattern. The plastron may or may not have dark
areas around the scute margins. The skin of the turtle is brown
and the males have colorful scales on the front legs. They are
found from Maine to Georgia and westward to Michigan, Illinois
T. c. triunguis or Three-toed: 3 1/2-5 inches long with a high-dome shell. The carapace is keeled and olive brown or yellowish brown and may or may not have markings of yellow . The markings are usually thin lines or spots and dashes. The plastron may or may not have dark areas. The skin is usually brown with yellow spots and the males have reddish heads with red, orange and black on the neck and forelegs. The beaks are also colorful. They usually have three toes on the hind feet but four toes are not uncommon. This subspecies may be found as far north as Missouri and southwards to Texas and Alabama.
T. c. major or the Gulf Coast: 5-7 inches long with a dome shell. The shell is olive brown or dark brown and there is very little marking. The back marginal scutes are often flared outward forming a slope or skirt. This adaptation may help them walk the marshy ground during the Gulf Coast’s wet season. The plastron is usually unmarked. The skin can be light or dark brown and the males have colorful necks and forelegs. They can have three toes or four toes and are found in Gulf Coast areas of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and western Florida.
Terrapene ornata ornata or Western Ornate: 4-5 inches long with a flattened-dome shell and no central keel, although a yellow midline is not uncommon. The shell is dark brown or black with bright yellow lines that radiate to form a starburst pattern. The plastron is always marked with yellow and brown lines. The skin is dark gray and white and the head is dark brown with spots of white or yellow. The mature males obtain a greenish color on the top of the head. Ornate box turtles are found in grasslands of South Dakota through Illinois and southward to Arizona and Texas.
Florida box turtles are sometimes kept as pets. They are found only in Florida and are 5 to 5 1/2 inches long and look similar in coloration to the Western Ornate. However the carapace is a high dome and the yellow star burst patterns are thinner and more numerous. There are two thick, yellow stripes on each side of the head going from the corner of the eyes towards the neck. The plastron is cream color with fine lines of brown.
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