Determining whether a painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) out in the wild or in someone's home as a pet is a male or a female isn't always an easy task. Male and female painted turtles don't look 100 percent the same, though. A handful of key physical differences exist between the sexes of these diurnal reptiles.
Understanding painted turtle's mature sizes can be helpful for determining gender. Adult female painted turtles are bigger than the males, with typical plastron -- or bottom shell -- lengths of between roughly 4 and 5 inches. Typical plastron lengths for mature males are between a little less than 3 inches and a little less than 4 inches. Not only do adult sizes differ, so do the actual developmental speeds. Female painted turtles become sexually mature between the ages of 6 and 10 years old, while males become mature earlier, when they're between 3 and 5 years.
Painted turtles' tails can help indicate gender. Although individuals of both sexes have tails streaked with bright yellow, those of the males are markedly lengthier, despite their smaller overall sizes. Not only are their tails lengthier, they're also wider.
Looking at the claws of painted turtles can provide useful gender clues, too. If you check out a painted turtle's front feet and notice that his claws seem especially long, he's a boy. Females have much shorter claws than males. Males utilize their impressive claws in breeding rituals.
The bottom shells of painted turtles are also different in the sexes. Males' plastrons have concave or hollowed appearances, while the females do not. This difference is not without a purpose -- it helps in mating.
Outside of physical appearances, male and female painted turtles offer gender information in how they act. The species reproduces starting at the end of the spring all the way into the beginning of the summer. Females deposit their eggs shortly after the season commences, using smooth dirt that can receive ample sunlight. After they put their eggs in depressions in the dirt, they promptly conceal them and depart the scene. Neither male nor female painted turtles rear their young. Juvenile painted turtles are self-sufficient as soon as they hatch.
- Digital Atlas of Idaho: Painted Turtle
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Chrysemys picta
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Chrysemys picta
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources: Painted Turtle
- Warner Nature Center: Painted Turtle
- Montana Field Guide: Painted Turtle
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Painted Turtle
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images