Chrysemys picta, the painted turtle, is a member of Emydidae within Cryptodira. There are four subspecies of C. picta: the eastern (C. p. picta), western (C. p. bellii), southern (C. p. dorsalis), and central (C. p. marginata) painted turtles, each of which is endemic to a particular region of the extensive range of this species, which covers most of the United States and includes parts of Mexico and Canada (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). Emydidae contains the most species of any turtle group, and has an evolutionary record stretching back 80 million years (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). Emydidae is closely related to the Old World pond turtles and tortoises (Geoemydidae and Testudinidae, respectively), but the relationship of these three close relatives to other turtles is unclear (e.g., Gaffney and Meylan, 1988; Joyce, in press).
Chrysemys picta is a small turtle, reaching 25 cm in length (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). The skull is of moderate size with respect to the body and is somewhat emarginated. The carapace is oval and flattened, and the plastron is well developed. Chrysemys picta is olive to black dorsally with yellow or red borders on seams and red markings on the marginal scutes, and a medial red or yellow stripe is variably present. The plastron is yellow and may exhibit a dark blotch. The neck, legs, and tail are striped with red and yellow, while the head exhibits complex yellow markings that include large spots behind the eyes. Color patterns vary among subspecies (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006).
As described above, Chrysemys picta ranges across all of North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico. It inhabits slow-moving, shallow water, and prefers locations with soft bottoms, plenty of vegetation, and suitable basking sites. It may enter brackish water along the Atlantic coast (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). Young C. picta are carnivorous, but become omnivorous as adults. Painted turtles will feed opportunistically on almost any available food item. Females lay two to three clutches per year, each containing from two to 20 eggs, but do not reproduce every year (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006).
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Chrysemys picta page on Animal Diversity Web.
C. picta page on the Illinois Natural History Survey