A Bartram Lesson in Regional Natural History and Herpetology

A Bartram Lesson in Regional Natural History and Herpetology

Colonial naturalist and explorer, William Bartram encountered and sketched many turtles in the 1770s, including this species, during his travels along the St. Johns River.

William Bartram’s Sketch of the Florida Red-bellied Cooter)

The Florida Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys nelsoni) is active year-round and spends a large portion of the day basking on logs. They are noted for sometimes laying their eggs in the nest mounds of alligators. The Florida redbelly is closely related to the Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys floridana) and they can often be found basking on logs together. They were first classified as a separate species by renowned herpetologist Archie Carr in 1938. The Red-bellied Cooter is mainly herbivorous, and can be found in nearly any type of aquatic habitat.

Florida Red Bellied Cooter photo courtesy of Susan Miller

It feeds on a variety of aquatic plants including waterweed, duckweed, and arrowhead. It reaches particularly high densities in spring runs, isolated ponds and occasionally can be found in brackish water. Like many turtles, offspring gender is nest temperature-dependent with males being born at cooler temperatures and females being born at warmer temperatures.