Pseudemys nelsoni Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
The redbelly is a large turtle (13 in; 34 cm) with an olive-brown to blackish top shell, patterned with wide faded reddish markings. The underside of the top shell is red or orange. The head, feet and tail are black with bright yellow stripes. The bottom shell is orange or rusty red.
The red-bellied turtle is found in fresh or brackish water. It prefers places with abundant vegetation and little water flow including ponds, lakes, ditches and canals.
In Florida, female red-bellied turtles often lay their eggs in alligator nests. This behavior has several potential advantages for the turtles. Alligator nests provide stable temperature and humidity for both turtle and alligator eggs, and while protecting her own eggs, the female alligator protects the turtle eggs against raccoons and other would-be egg predators. However, laying eggs in an alligator nest is risky – alligators have been seen to attack red-bellied turtles. Biologists believe the thick high-domed shell of this turtle is an adaptation that helps it survive alligator attacks. Close examination of the carapaces of red-bellied turtles often show tooth marks and deep gouges, evidence of unsuccessful attacks by alligators.
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