Yellow-bellied Slider
Trachemys scripta scripta

Common Name:

Yellow-bellied Slider

Scientific Name:

Trachemys scripta scripta



Trachemys is derived from the Greek word trachys which means "roughness" and emys which means "turtle".


scripta is derived from the Latin word scriptura meaning "a writing".


scripta is derived from the Latin word scriptura meaning "a writing".

Average Length:

5 - 8 in. (12.5 - 20.3 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

Record length:

11.4 in. (28.9 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier IV - Moderate Conservation Need - The species may be rare in parts of its range, particularly on the periphery. Populations of these species have demonstrated a significant declining trend or one is suspected which, if continued, is likely to qualify this species for a higher tier in the foreseeable future. Long-term planning is necessary to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This a freshwater turtle that can have a carapace length up to 289 mm. In Virginia, they have reached 3200 grams in weight and a plastron length of 294 mm. The carapace is oval with the posterior marginal scutes being indented creating two blunt rounded projections. The have 12 marginals on each side, 5 pleurals on each side and 5 vertebrals. Plastron is hingeless and slightly smaller than the carapace in length. The carapace is usually olive to brown with yellow markings: a vertical line on each pleural scute. Ventral side of the marginals has a black blotch. The bridge is yellow and usually unmarked except for a black spot on each inguinal scute. Plastron is yellow with dark spots in 2 or more scutes. Skin, like the carapace, is an olive -brown with yellow markings. There are several thin yellow stripes on the neck and limbs. Behind each eye is a wide vertical yellow bar *10760*. Hybrids of T.s.scripta and T.s. elegans exist in the southeastern part of the state producing offspring that share the physical characteristics of both subspecies *10760*.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Sexual size dimorphism is significant in this genus. Adult males are 115.8-227.5 mm carapace length (avg. = 158.4+/-25.4, n=110), 100.3-209.0 mm plastron length (avg. =143.6+/-23.1, n=110), and weigh 190-1350 grams (avg. 596.1+/-278.1, n=95). Adult females are 220.5-309.0 mm carapace length (avg. = 246.3+/-15.4, n=136), 191.0-294.0 mm plastron length (avg. = 229.4+/-15.1, n=134), and weigh 1360-3200 grams (avg. =2199.5+/-421.5, n=123). Males possess elongated foreclaws and an elongated tail in which the anal opening is posterior to the edge of the carapace. Females shells are higher domed and they have shorter tails *10760,11624*. Hatchlings have a green carapace with yellow markings and a yellow plastron with a variable number of spots. Head markings are the same as adults. he carapace will darken with age, especially in males. Hatchlings from Va. ranged from 28.5-35.3 mm in carapace length, and 25.9-32.6 mm plastron length. They weigh 6.0-11.0 grams *10760,11624*.

CONFUSING SPECIES: This species can be confused with Pseudemys rubriventris which has a pervasive red pigment on the shell, and a dark pattern following the plastral seams. Pseudemys concinna concinna have a C-shaped pattern on the 2nd pleural scute. Pseudemys concinna floridana has an unmarked yellow plastron *10760,11624*.

REPRODUCTION: In Virginia, nesting females have been found from May through July. During courtship, the male swims backward in front of the female as he strokes her face with his long foreclaws. The nests are dug near water, usually within 200 yards. The size of the nest is varies with the size of the turtle with the maximum depth about five inches and the neck of the bottle shaped cavity just wide enough to admit an egg. They do not have auxiliary pockets that contain eggs as some other species do. There are usually from 10 to 12 eggs although larger females may lay more. The newly hatched young remain in the nest until heavy rains loosen the encrusted soil *1027,11624*. Of 28 females caught in June, 1985 and 1986, 71% produced 2 clutches. The smallest mature female was 204 mm plastron length and the smallest mature male was 94 mm. Females in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge mature at about 8-9 years and males at 5 years. Eggs averaged 34.5+/-1.9 x 23.2+/-.2 mm and weighed 7.7-13.8 grams. Egg length, width, and mass are positively related to the size of the female; in general the larger the female the larger the egg. However, clutch size is not related to female size. The laboratory incubation period was 69-95 days and hatchlings emerged 19 August to 9 September. Further south, hatchlings overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring. This may occur in some locations in Virginia.

BEHAVIOR: Sliders are usually active from April through October. They hibernate during the winter months buried in the organic substrate at the bottom of the water body or they may use muskrat burrows. They bask often, sometimes stacking on top of each other. They are extremely wary of any disturbance though and will disappear into the water quickly. As adults they are omnivores, feeding on aquatic vegetation as well as vegetation that falls into the water. They supplement this diet with aquatic invertebrates of various kinds. Juveniles are almost entirely carnivorous *10760*.

ORIGIN: This is a native species *10760, 11407*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: They can live to be 30 years old, or more. It is found abundantly in wetlands of southeastern Virginia but there is some concern about the intergradation with the introduced T.s. elegans *10760,11624*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: This species in particular, among the Virginia sliders can tolerate some brackish waters but it prefers a freshwater waterbody with organic substrate, and plenty of aquatic vegetation and basking sites. The eggs are food to most avian and mammalian predators and the hatchlings may also be prey to large fish *10760*.

References for Life History

  • 882 - Conant, R., 1958, A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of the United States and Canada east of the 100th Meridian, 366 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA
  • 1027 - Carr, A.F., 1952, Handbook of Turtles. Turtles of the United States, Canada, and Baja California, 542 pgs., Comstock Publ. Assoc., Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, NY
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11407 - Conant, Roger and, Collins, John T., 1998, Peterson Field Guide: Reptiles and Amphibians, Eastern/Central North America, 616 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Company;, Boston
  • 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

Alexandria City
Brunswick County
Chesapeake City
Chesterfield County
Dinwiddie County
Emporia City
Fairfax County
Gloucester County
Greensville County
Hampton City
Hanover County
Henrico County
Isle of Wight County
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Lunenburg County
Mecklenburg County
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Prince George County
Southampton County
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Sussex County
Virginia Beach City
York County
Verified in 25 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.