Being an aquatic species, most painted turtles hibernate in the mud at the bottom of ponds. They dig down as far as ten feet where they spend the winter hovering around 43°. In the spring, when the temperature of the water approaches 60°, painted turtles begin actively foraging, but the first priority upon awakening is to warm up their bodies. Turtles are ectothermic, or cold-blooded, thus the temperature of their bodies is determined by the environment that surrounds them. To be active, painted turtles must maintain an internal temperature of 63°- 73°. They reach and maintain this temperature by basking in the sun, particularly in the cold, first weeks of spring. Once warmed up, the turtles will forage, and when they begin to cool off, basking resumes.
Competition for basking sites such as floating logs and rocks can be fierce. It is not unusual to see many painted turtles lined up on a floating log, or turtles piled one upon the other on a rock in an effort to maximize the effect of the sun’s rays. The heat they’re obtaining increases their metabolism, aids in digestion and allows males to start producing sperm. The sun also strengthens their shells and reduces the amount of algae on them, thereby reducing the chances of bacterial or fungal infection.
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