Box turtles are one of the most commonly seen turtles in the wild. Many people accidentally confuse box turtles with tortoises, as they share a similar appearance. Although they may look the same, box turtles are actually members of the American pond turtle family. Many interesting facts make up the box turtle’s life, including how long these little guys live. This article will go over all there is to know about box turtles.
The Rundown On Box Turtles
There are currently four species of box turtles. This includes the common box turtle, Coahuilan box turtle, ornate box turtle, and the spotted box turtle. Depending on their species, box turtle shells are found in various colors.
Some box turtles may have brown shells, while others have shells that contain yellow markings on them. A box turtle’s carapace covers most of its body and contains ridges. Box turtles also have webbed toes and a hooked mouth. The length of a box turtle is roughly 6 inches.
The habitats in which box turtles prefer to live are near meadows, fields, and ponds. They prefer warmer weather, and if they get too hot, they will seek shade to shelter themselves. On cooler days, they spend their time searching for food. They prefer to eat berries, eggs, flowers, and insects.
If a box turtle feels threatened, it retreats into its shell and remains shut out. Box turtle shells are incredibly resilient, making it extremely hard for predators to take advantage of them.
Box turtles are also reclusive. They very much enjoy their privacy. They prefer to hide in logs or burrow deep into sand and mud. Some species of box turtles will even hibernate throughout the colder months when food is scarce and harder to come by.
How Long Do Box Turtles Live?
The average box turtle’s lifespan is 40 – 50 years in the wild. However, box turtles have been known to live up to 100 years in captivity. Environment plays a huge factor in how long a box turtle may live. Unfortunately, in the wild, counting the growth rings on a box turtle’s scutes is not a reliable way to estimate its age.
There are various types of box turtles, each with a different lifespan. Several species are listed below, along with their average lifespan:
- Desert Box Turtle: The desert box turtle has a lifespan of 10 to 50 years.
- Eastern Box Turtle: The eastern box turtle has a lifespan of 25 to 35 years in the wild and can live over 100 years in captivity.
- Ornate Box Turtle: The ornate box turtle can live for 25 years in the wild and about 32 to 37 years in captivity.
- Florida Box Turtle: The Florida box turtle can live anywhere between 25-30 years in the wild and over 50 years in captivity.
- Yucatan Box Turtle: The Yucatan box turtle hasn’t been studied extensively, but it has been estimated that it can live more than 100 years in the wild.
Let’s take a look at the life cycle of these remarkable creatures, considering how much we know about their lifespans now.
The Average Box Turtle Life Cycle
The box turtle’s life cycle is quite similar to many other wild turtles. Let’s take a look at each stage in detail:
Box turtles prefer to lay their eggs in water or mud. Female box turtles construct nests that they use to lay their eggs. The nests are around the size of the mother turtle and just deep enough for her to lay her eggs. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the box turtle eggs to hatch.
After 6 to 8 weeks, the babies begin to hatch. The mother turtle does not stay with her eggs throughout this time. The babies will slowly begin to break open the egg. This process can take 2 or 3 days. Once they are finally out of the eggs and have dug their way up out of the nest, they are free to explore and fend for themselves.
Box turtles begin to attain sexual maturity between the ages of 10 and 20 years. This is also the stage when they begin to exhibit their most apparent and stunning colorings. Box turtles start searching for another turtle to mate with during this time.
What Factors Shorten A Box Turtle’s Lifespan?
Although box turtles live for an incredibly long time, only a small percentage make it to adulthood.
Here are a few factors that may negatively impact a box turtle’s lifespan:
- Loss Of Habitat: Box turtle habitats are destroyed in various ways. These include the destruction of wetlands, river diversions, and landscape fragmentation. Box turtles are extremely sensitive to changes in water quality, forcing them to live in filthy, contaminated water. Given the length of time turtles live, climate change and air and water pollution begin to damage them gradually as well. The expansion of cities, roads, and towns also leaves them nowhere to go.
- Invasive Species: Invasive plants and animals can affect the lifespan of the box turtle. The turtle population can dwindle extensively when affected with bacteria and viruses as well as parasites. Female box turtles can lay eggs well into their adulthood. If female turtles are targeted by prey, they will not be able to lay thousands of eggs throughout their lifetime.
- Pet Trade: One of the biggest threats to box turtles right now is the increasing number of people who wish to purchase them as pets without having the necessary knowledge and research done beforehand. Many people believe that turtles are easy to care for as pets for youngsters, but this is far from the reality. Box turtles do not like to be handled. They are also susceptible to being over-stressed. They are also not considered tamed and are still considered wild animals.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/SteveByland
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