Common Slider

(Trachemys scripta)




Facts about this animal

There are three subspecies of Common sliders in the United States. Trachemys scripta elegans (Red-eared Slider) is with a length of more than 30 cm the biggest subspecies. It gets its name from the broad horizontal red or orange stripe behind each eye, though some red-eared sliders do not have this streak. Young hatchlings have a green carapace and skin with yellow green to dark green markings and stripes. Color in adults fades to a muted olive green color. Some older individuals (especially males) become melanistic, appearing almost black with few visible markings.

The carapace is oval and flattened with a weak keel. The plastron is yellow with dark markings in the center of each scute. Trachemys scripta scripta (Yellow-bellied Slider) is with a length of 27 cm smaller than the previous subspecies. It has a vertical yellow blotch behind each eye which may join the neck stripe, but is usually only evident in juveniles and females. Yellow vertical bands mark the carapace, with the underside being yellow with smudges. The plastron is also yellow with dark blotches or smudges.

Trachemys scripta troostii (Cumberland Turtle) is with a length of only 21 cm (males only 14 cm) the smallest of the three subspecies. It has a horizontal narrower yellowish stripe behind each eye with a reddish or orange center (in particular in young animals; in older animals it is brownish). It is similar to T. s. elegans, but has fewer and much wider stripes on the legs, neck and head.

All the subspecies have webbed feet that aid them in swimming. The male is usually smaller than the female with a much longer, thicker tail. The cloacal opening of the male is beyond the edge of the carapace while the female's opening is usually at or under the rear edge of the carapace. Males have elongated claws that they use in courtship/mating. Common sliders are often observed basking on logs, rocks, or stumps near the water in large groups (aggregations) due to the limited numbers of basking sites. Sometimes they are stacked on top of each other three high.

They are however very aware of predators and people and generally shy away from them. In fact, they frantically slide off of rocks and logs when approached - hence the name. At night they sleep underwater, usually resting on the bottom or floating on the surface, using their inflated throat as a flotation aid.

If the water temperature drops below 10°C (usually in October) these turtles become inactive. Often they hibernate underwater at the bottom of ponds or shallow lakes or under banks and hollow stumps and rocks. This hibernation can however be interrupted. In warmer winter climates they can become active and come to the surface for basking. When the temperature begins to drop again, however, they will quickly return to a hibernation state. The end of hibernation (emergence) is usually in early March to as late as the end of April when the will come up for food.

Maturity occurs in males at 3 to 5 years of age, when they are about 10 cm long; females at 5 to 7 years and 15 to 19 cm long. Mating activities usually occur between March and July and take place underwater. The male swims toward the female and begins to flutter or vibrate his long claws on and around her face and head. The female will continue to swim toward the male and, if she is receptive, will sink to the bottom for mating. If the female is not receptive, she may become aggressive towards the male. The courtship can take up to 45 minutes, but the mating itself usually takes only 10-15 minutes. Sometimes a male will appear to be courting another male. This is actually a sign of dominance and the males may begin to fight. Juveniles may also show this courtship display, but until they are mature they are unable to mate. After mating, the female will spend extra time basking in order to keep her eggs warm. She may also have a change of diet, eating only certain foods or not eating as much as she normally would. Ovulation begins in May and egg-laying occurs in May through early July. Females will often travel some distance to find a suitable nesting site. Nests are dug in the soil with the female's back feet. Four to 23 eggs are laid in the 2 to 4 inch deep hole and then covered with the displaced soil. The larger females have the largest clutches. One female can lay up to three clutches in the same year. Second clutches are laid in July or August. Eggs hatch about 60-90 days after they have been laid. Babies hatching late in the season may spend the winter in the nest and emerge only when the weather warms in the spring. New hatchlings cut open their egg with an “egg tooth” (caruncle) which disappears soon after hatching. Hatchlings may stay inside their eggshells after hatching for the first day or two. When a hatchling leaves the shell, it may have a small sac hanging from its plastron. This is the normal remains of the yolk sac and removing it could be fatal to the hatchling. The sac will fall off by itself, and a split may be noticable in the hatchling's plastron, which will heal on its own. Common sliders grow quickly at first, reaching about 5 cm within the first year, but growth slows as they get older.

Young Common sliders tend to be more carnivorous than adults, eating about 70% animal matter and 30% plant matter. Adults eat 90% plant matter and 10% animal matter. These excellent and fast swimmers will even hunt for prey and will attempt to capture it when the opportunity presents itself. Foods include aquatic insects, snails, tadpoles, crawfish, fish, crustaceans, and mollusks and carrion, but also numerous aquatic plant species like arrowhead, water lilies, hyacinths, and duck weed.

Did you know?
The name "slider" refers to the quick retreat from their basking site into the water when they feel even the slightest bit threatened.It always happens that common sliders are bought as very small animals (carapace diameter 5 cm) as pets, but when they reach adult size and are not cuddly animals anymore are just “thrown away” into creeks, ponds or marshes in the wild. However this is very problematic and even dangerous not only for the released pet but also for the wild population: These pets could carry organisms that the wild populations are not immune to and the pet may not have the proper immune system that is required to live in a wild habitat. Disease could easily be spread by this practice. Pet turtles fed commercial diets also may not recognize natural foods and may associate humans with food which could endanger the turtle. Pet owners therefore should contact a rescue organization if they no longer want their turtle.


Name (Scientific) Trachemys scripta
Name (English) Common Slider
Name (French) Tortue de Floride
Name (German) Buchstaben-Schmuckschildkröte
Name (Spanish) Tortuga resbaladora
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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United States Geological Survey



Range North Amercica (Trachemys scripta). The three subspecies have the following ranges: T. s. elegans from the Gulf of Mexico in the south-west of the USA alsong the Mississippi to the south shore of Lake Michigan in the north and to Alabama in the east. T. s. scripta in north-Florida, in Georgia and South Carolina, as well as in the eastern part of North Carolina and in the south-east of Virginia. T. s. troostii. From south-western Virginia and Kentucky as far as northeastern Alabama.
Habitat Although pond sliders are very adaptable, they prefer quiet, soft, fresh, warm, muddy bottomed waters (ponds, lakes, marshes, creeks and streams) with suitable basking spots (large flat rock or a floating log, in full sunlight) and a rich underground and shore vegetation, which is the main component of an adult animals diet. It is common for them to bask together and even on top of each other. They prefer basking spots that allow them to escape quickly by dropping (or sliding) into the water They are faithful to their home ranges, leaving only to bask, nest or hibernate.
Wild population Common sliders, especially red-eared sliders (T. s. elegans), have been heavily collected for the pet trade and are sold by the millions in pet shops across the world. Because of unsanitary conditions and a lack of knowledge on turtle care, a considerable number do not survive for long in captivity. U.S. government regulations now require turtles to be at least 10 cm in length before they can be sold as pets in the USA. However, many hatchlings are still produced commercially for export to Europe, Mexico, and Japan. But commercial turtle farms not always qualify as "closed systems," and farm breeding stock is in these cases augmented by the capture of wild turtles. In recent years, numbers of adult sliders and related turtle species have been trapped for the food trade; and have been exported in particular to Asian countries. In addition to overharvest (slider eggs are even used as fish bait) native slider populations are also declining due to habitat destruction and pollution. Furthermore sliders are often killed on roads by automobiles, and are sometimes persecuted by fishermen who mistakenly consider these turtles to be fish eaters. On the other hand because of the release of unwanted pets, sliders have established populations outside of their native range (California, France, South Africa, Bahrain, Japan, South Korea, Guam, and Thailand). These introduced populations very probably have a marked negative effect on the native fauna and species, but to date there is still too little supporting scientific evidence.

In the Zoo

Common Slider


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 43 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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