Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina), in the Thomas Winget Park, Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Eastern Box Turtle is a subspecies within a group of hinge-shelled turtles, normally called box turtles. It's native to the eastern part of the United States. Occasionally, it is referred to as the Common Box Turtle to distinguish it from the other five subspecies of eastern box turtles.
Eastern Box Turtles have a high, dome-like carapace and a hinged plastron that allows total shell closure. The carapace can be of variable coloration, but is normally found brownish or black and is accompanied by a yellowish or orangish radiating pattern of lines, spots or blotches. Skin coloration, like that of the shell, is variable, but is usually brown with some yellow, purplish or white spots or streaks. This coloration closely mimics that of the winter leaf of the tulip poplar. The color of the shell and skin of an eastern box turtle differs with age; younger turtles of the type are often more vibrantly colored than the older. Furthermore, males normally possess red eyes (irises) whereas females usually display brown eyes. Eastern box turtles feature a sharp, horny beak, stout limbs, and their feet are webbed only at the base. Staying small in size, males grow to up to seven inches, and females to about eight. In the wild, box turtles are known to live over 80 years, but in captivity, usually live only between 30-50.
While the female's plastron is flat, in males it is concave so the male may fit over the back end of the female's carapace during mating. The front and back of the plastron are connected by a flexible hinge. When in danger, the turtle is able to close the plastron by pulling the hinged sections closely against the carapace, effectively sealing the soft body in bone.
When injured or damaged, the shell has the capacity to regenerate and reform. Granular tissue slowly forms and keratin slowly grows over the damaged area to replace damaged and missing scutes or scales. Box turtle scutes continue to grow throughout the turtle's life and develop growth rings.
In the wild eastern box turtles are opportunistic omnivores and will feed on a variety of animal and vegetable matter. There are a variety of foods which are universally accepted by eastern box turtles, which include earthworms, snails, grubs, beetles, caterpillars, grasses, fallen fruit, berries, mushrooms, flowers, bread, duck weed and carrion.
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