Michigan State University masthead

red-eared slider

red-eared slider
Trachemys scripta elegans

Image of red-eared slider (male)Description

The red-eared slider is named for the broad red or orange stripe behind the eye, which may extend onto the neck. Otherwise, the head, neck, and legs are greenish with yellow stripes. The olive or brown carapace usually has yellow and black longitudinal bands and stripes. The plastron is yellow with a dark, rounded blotch in each scute. Males are slightly smaller than females and have longer claws on the forefeet. Old specimens, especially males, may become very dark, with black coloration obscuring the striped pattern on the skin and shell.

Adult Carapace Length:

5 to 11 inches (12.5 to 27.9 cm).

Habitat and Habits

Red-eared sliders prefer still-water habitats (lakes, ponds, sloughs) with abundant aquatic plant growth and numerous basking sites in the form of logs or other emergent objects. These turtles are called "sliders" because they quickly slide from their basking spots into the water when disturbed. They feed on aquatic plants, and animals such as crayfish, snails, insects, tadpoles, and carrion. The young turtles are mostly carnivorous but eat increasing amounts of vegetation as they get older.

red-eared slider (male)Reproduction

Courtship and mating in red-eared sliders take place in water. As in painted turtles, male sliders use their very long front claws to "tickle" the head and neck of the females during courtship. The females usually nest in June, burying from 4 to 25 elliptical eggs in a sunny location. Incubation takes about 65 to 80 days. The babies are about 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) long and have bright green carapaces with yellow markings. Growth can be rapid, and under ideal conditions sliders may reach breeding size in two to four years.

Range and Status

This is a common turtle from northwestern Indiana south to Georgia and west to Texas and Oklahoma. Red-eared sliders are probably not native to Michigan, but breeding populations exist locally in the western and southern Lower Peninsula. Many thousands of baby sliders were once imported into this state for the pet trade, so it is likely that released or escaped specimens are responsible for the established colonies. Isolated specimens may turn up almost anywhere in Michigan.

Image of red-eared sliderAcknowledgement

James Harding
MSU Museum
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 353-7978