The box turtle and the painted turtle are reptiles from the family Emydidae. Given their resemblance, telling them apart may prove difficult for non-experts and regular people. Not to worry; in this article, we will take an extensive look at the few differences between these animals as well as their similarities and peculiarities by way of lucid facts and figures.
Comparing a Box Turtle and a Painted Turtle
|Box Turtle||Painted Turtle|
|Size||Length- 5 in-6 in|
Weight: 0.5 lbs-2 lbs
|Length: 8 in-12 in|
Weight: 0.6 lbs-1.125 lbs
|Appearance||Dark brown, black, or brown shell with yellow markings on top, four legs with five clawed toes on the front legs and four clawed toes on each of the rear feet||Olive or black skin|
Red, yellow, or orange stripes on the tail, necks, and legs
Wide and round shells; shells can be dark-green, solid yellow, or orange plastrons.
|Location and Habitat||Location: North America |
Habitat: meadows, forests, ponds, and streams.
|Location: North America|
Habitat: ponds, marshes, and streams.
|Behavior||Mostly solitary; protect themselves against aggressors by retreating fully into shells.||They sometimes live in groups in ponds and streams; they enjoy sunbathing|
|Diet||Omnivorous; plants, vegetation, insects, and small fishes.||Omnivorous; insects. small amphibians, fishes, carrion, fruits, and flowers.|
|Predators and Threats||Raccoons, otters, foxes, dogs, environmental destruction. Dogs, skunks, raccoons, snakes, birds of prey, Habitat loss.|
Key Differences Between Box Turtles And Painted Turtles
Truth is, box turtles and painted turtles are more similar than they are different and that’s to be expected given that they are from the same family. However, the major differences between these two are in their size and appearance. Let’s get into some more details, shall we?
Box Turtles vs Painted Turtles: Size
Box turtles and painted turtles differ slightly in size as we are about to see. Box turtles weigh between 0.5- 2lbs, and their average length falls between 5 and 6 inches. Painted turtles, however, have an average length of 8-12 inches and they weigh between 0.6lbs and 1.125 lbs.
So, while the average base weight for box turtles and painted turtles are similar, their lengths are different with the painted turtle averaging more inches than the box turtles.
Box Turtles vs Painted Turtles: Appearance
Box turtles and painted turtles may look the same at first glance but they actually have certain distinctions in their appearance. Box turtles have a dark brown or black carapace with yellow markings above it. They also have four legs with clawed toes (five each on the front and four at the rear) and necks with domed shells that help fasten the process of retreating into their shells.
It goes without saying that painted turtles also have shells with colors ranging from black to yellow and orange. Their skins are either olive or black and their legs, necks, and tails are striped with yellow, red, and orange markings.
Box Turtles vs Painted Turtles: Location And Habitat
Box turtles and painted turtles are both natives of the North American continent. Painted turtles live all over North America and their subspecies are grouped according to the regions they dwell in. For instance, we have the western painted turtles commonly found in Ontario and British Columbia and the eastern painted turtles on the east coast.
Box turtles and painted turtles also have similar habitats, ranging from ponds to streams to marshes. Painted turtles generally prefer to live in slow-moving waters and also enjoy areas outside water like marshes, meadows, pastures, and other forested areas.
Box Turtles vs Painted Turtles: Behavior
Box turtles and painted turtles have similar behaviors, although there are some subtle differences. While both animals enjoy being alone, painted turtles can actually cohabit with other turtles in aquatic habitats. Box turtles, on the other hand, are almost strictly solitary and they only want to interact with mating partners and mothers. They, however, seldom gather in groups, especially in areas with plenty of food.
Both animals enjoy basking in the sun and would regularly do this to warm up their temperatures. On the whole, it is safe to say box turtles and painted turtles have very similar behavioral traits.
Box Turtles vs Painted Turtles: Diet
Box turtles and painted turtles are typically omnivorous, which means they would eat both plants and animals with the same level of enthusiasm. They have a similar diet comprising insects, small fishes, plants, and vegetation.
We must mention that young box turtles and painted turtles have been noted to prefer insects and small amphibians, while the adults grow to be more welcoming of fruits, flowers, carrion, and water algae in their diet.
In terms of diet, they are practically the same.
Box Turtles vs Painted Turtles: Predators And Threats
Box turtles and painted turtles also face similar kinds of predators and threats. They are often preyed upon by dogs, raccoons, birds, snakes, otters, foxes, and other such carnivores. While their protective shells help them a lot with defense and protection, some of these predators can crack the shells or reach in with their claws, injuring or killing the turtles in the process. The female turtles also suffer from mass pilfering of their eggs by other omnivores around the nest area.
They are also jointly threatened by roadkills, habitat loss caused by human-led constructions/land developments, and general environmental degradation.
Both species appear to be facing a decline in their population. However, scientists and conservationists seem to be more worried about box turtles, which is why they are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. Painted turtles, on the other hand, are listed as “least concern” owing to their abundant population, and the reported declines are not considered threatening just yet. However, conservationists are watching them closely.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/SteveByland
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