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Painted Turtles Basking

5-1-19 painted turtle_U1A7417Water temperature of fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit is the magic number for Painted Turtles in the fall. Below it, their metabolism slows to a near standstill – their heartbeat slows to only one beat every few minutes and they do not breathe through their lungs (if conditions allow, they may absorb oxygen dissolved in the water through specialized skin cells near the tail). Their body temperature averages 43°F. when hibernating in the mud at the bottom of ponds. Occasionally a Painted Turtle is seen swimming under the ice, but for the most part, hibernation rules from October to April in northern New England.

When the water reaches 59°F.- 64°F. in the spring, Painted Turtles become active again. In addition to foraging, they immediately start basking in the sun. Being cold-blooded, or ectothermic, they need this external source of heat to warm their body, but the UV light also regulates their metabolism and breeding as well as helps produce Vitamin D3, which is essential for the health of their bones as well as their internal organs.

Basking can also help relieve aquatic turtles of ectoparasites. Leeches are a blood-sucking ectoparasite that can cause anemia in reptiles. Drying out in the sun causes the leeches to shrivel up and die. Algae on basking aquatic turtles can also dry out and fall off, allowing the shells to retain their aerodynamic nature.

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9 responses

  1. So very cool!


    May 1, 2019 at 8:31 am

  2. Bill on the Hill

    Thanks Mary… Growing up in Southern New England as a child, painted turtles were my specialty. Swimming in the local ponds & canals I often came away with painters hiding in the mud on the bottom as well as mud turtles & on rare occasions, spotted turtles. Other kids in the neighborhood knew who to see when in need of a turtle as I made numerous trade deals off my turtles…
    I caught my share of snappers as well & most fortunately, I still have all of my digits, Lol!
    So, in a nutshell, to this very day at (66) years young, turtles still hold a special place in my heart…
    Bill… :~)

    May 1, 2019 at 9:12 am

    • What a wonderful story! I love your youthful bartering!

      May 1, 2019 at 10:23 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    A few minutes walk from our house, is a small pond & bog with waterlilies…my granddaughter & I were at the pond on April 19th & from the driveway-bridge we saw a painted turtle swimming.

    May 1, 2019 at 9:24 am

  4. Jane Marshall

    Sounds like basking in the sun is a good idea for us all!!

    May 1, 2019 at 9:47 am

  5. Michele Girard

    This is fascinating information. Thank you!

    May 1, 2019 at 11:00 am

  6. Kathie Fiveash

    So interesting Mary! I love the perfect reflection, and I love the way this turtle’s front legs are hanging down in total relaxation, and with maximum exposure to the sun.

    May 1, 2019 at 12:49 pm

  7. Jean Harrison

    Siamese twin turtles?

    May 2, 2019 at 2:33 pm

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