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Painted Turtles Basking

3-23-16 painted turtles 033Being 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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9 responses

  1. So interesting Mary, thank you. I love seeing them basking in the spring. I have not seen any as yet… Are they out already in VT/NH? Amazing!

    March 21, 2016 at 9:14 am

    • Yes, amazing as it may seem, they were basking two days ago here!

      March 21, 2016 at 10:19 am

  2. Mary, I replied to your post of Mon. Mar. 14, 2016 “Connecting Young Children To Nature”
    and you asked for the name of the school that I referred to that has a nature/Reggio Emilla based curriculum/philosophy. It is Belmont Day School… in Belmont, MA.

    I also was at North Branch Nature Center this past week to set up some volunteering times with “Robin’s Nest”-outdoor nature playgroup of parent/caregivers of children 6mos.- preschool that meets once a week. I also will volunteer 2 mornings a week at preschool summer camps and sub. for 1-4th graders camps.

    March 21, 2016 at 9:34 am

    • Thank you so much, Kate. Wonderful work that you do!

      March 21, 2016 at 10:18 am

  3. Marilyn

    Aah, warm spring sunshine!

    March 21, 2016 at 9:55 am

  4. Marie Hanson

    Thank you Mary,
    This information will make my outings at the Pond on Mount Tom even more interesting.
    Working with students on occasions, I am looking forward to spending time observing and understanding better how the painted turtles thermoregulate and use the sun for other important life requirements.

    March 21, 2016 at 10:39 am

  5. Nancy Picthall French

    When I was out on our lake (Pillsbury Lake in Webster, NH) last week, I counted 37 turtles basking in the sun.

    March 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

  6. Cheron barton

    Worth a trip to Fishers Field to explore in few weeks??🤗

    Sent from my iPhone


    March 21, 2016 at 12:28 pm

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