Spotted Turtle
Clemmys guttata

Common Name:

Spotted Turtle

Scientific Name:

Clemmys guttata



Clemmys is derived from the Greek word klemmys which means "tortoise".


guttata is derived from the Latin word gutta which means "spot".

Average Length:

3.5 - 4.5 in. (9 - 11.5 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

4.8 in. (12.1 cm)

Record length:

5 in. (12.7 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier III - High Conservation Need - Extinction or extirpation is possible. Populations of these species are in decline or have declined to low levels or are in a restricted range. Management action is needed to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Virginia maximum carapace length of 121 mm, maximum plastron length, 110 mm and maximum weight 234 g. Plastron is usually 83-91% the size of the carapace and is hingeless, and is usually yellow, cream or light orange with dark irregular spots. Carapace is dark with yellow, yellow-orange, or cream spots. Spots can sometimes be missing or there can be as many as 92 on the shell. There are 12 marginal scutes on each side, 4 pleural scutes on each side and 5 vertebrals. The shell is smooth with no keel or serrated edges. Skin is also dark with lighter (usually yellow) spots and underside of limbs can be reddish to yellowish *10760*.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Male spotted turtles have a tan chin while females have yellow chins. Males also have brown eyes, as opposed to orange in the female and a slightly concave plastron while the females is flat. There is very little difference in size between the sexes. Males average between 88-121 mm carapace length, 78-110 mm plastron length, and weigh 91-189 grams. Females have a carapace length of 84-117 mm, a plastron length of 77-108 mm, and weigh 116-234 g. As in most turtles the cloacal opening in the males extends past the edge of the carapace. This is not true of the females *10760,11624*. Juveniles: They differ from adults in the frequency of spots (one per scute) and a broad, irregularly-shaped, black blotch in the center of the plastron. Hatchling spotted turtles have several plastral blotches and they do not occur near the midline. Average measurements are: 24-32.8mm CL, 23.1-26.4mm PL, and weight 4.0-6.4g *10760*.

CONFUSING SPECIES: This turtle is not easily confused with other turtles. It is the only turtle with yellow spots on a black background *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: Known clutch size for this state is 3-4 eggs. Ernst reported clutch sizes of 3-5 for a Pennsylvania population. Sexual maturity for both sexes is reached at about 77 mm plastron length. Mating occurs in spring in shallow water. Mating has been observed in VA on March 7 and April 2. Virginia females have been collected with eggs in their oviducts on May 1, May 31, June 7, and June 10. Nesting dates for VA are unknown but hatching occurs in August and September and incubation in the lab has run 61-70 days. Hatchlings will overwinter in the nest further north. Eggs averaged between 30-38mm in length and 17-19mm in width and weighed an average of 5-8g *10760*.

BEHAVIOR: The non-breeding territory for this species is 1.3 acres or .002 square miles. They are most active March through May and they are mainly diurnal during this time. They can be seen basking on logs, stumps and grass mats. They are not normally active past June. They spend much of their time in the water but a good deal of terrestrial activity occurs during the breeding season. Also during the breeding season aggression can be observed between males. They overwinter in the mud, or in muskrat burrows underwater. They are carnivorous and eat a number of different invertebrate prey items such as insects, worms, slugs, crayfish. They may eat some plant material as well *2988,10760*. ORIGIN: The origin of this species is native *2988*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: In Pennsylvania, one population's densities were 16-32 per acre. Movements were less than 250 meters, and most of the population was comprised of turtles over 10 years of age, and max known age was 19 years *10760*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: Preyed upon by raccoons, dogs and snapping turtles as adults. The eggs are also consumed by a number of different mammalian predators. Aquatic vegetation (grass macrophytes) are an important component of summer habitat. They are not often found in deeper water *10760*.

References for Life History

  • 2988 - Ernst, C.H., R.W. Barbour, 1972, Turtles of the United States, 347 pgs., Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11624 - Mitchell, J. C., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert review for GAP Analysis Project, Mitchell Ecological Research LLC


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Accomack County
Alexandria City
Amelia County
Augusta County
Charles City County
Chesapeake City
Chesterfield County
Cumberland County
Dinwiddie County
Fairfax County
Fauquier County
Goochland County
Greensville County
Hampton City
Hanover County
Henrico County
Isle of Wight County
James City County
King William County
Lancaster County
Louisa County
Madison County
Mathews County
Mecklenburg County
Middlesex County
New Kent County
Newport News City
Northampton County
Page County
Petersburg City
Powhatan County
Prince George County
Prince William County
Southampton County
Stafford County
Suffolk City
Surry County
Sussex County
Virginia Beach City
Westmoreland County
York County
Verified in 41 Counties/Cities.


Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.