The Western Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia miaria)
IDENTIFICATION:4-10 inches (10-25.4 cm). The carapace is pear-shaped from a the dorsal perspective with the widest part just above the hind legs. The carapace contains numerous longitudinally oriented shallow ridges. The vertebral scutes are broad and the first comes into contact with four marginal scutes. This condition is not found among any other aquatic turtles in Texas. The plastron is yellow with some dark markings. The bridge is well developed is marked by 3-4 dark spots above a dark line extending the length of the lower bridge. A broad yellow stripe is present on the front of the forelimbs and the thighs are marked with distinctive vertical yellow stripes. The striped neck is longer than any other species of emydid turtle and can be more than 75-80% the shell length.
BEHAVIOR AND ECOLOGY: This aquatic turtle is fond of basking and within its range can be found in bodies of freshwater with soft bottoms and aquatic vegetation such as: lakes, oxbows, swamps, marshes and ephemeral bodies of water such as flooded forest. Juvenile chicken turtles are carnivorous but shift towards an omnivorous diet as they reach maturity.
Females dig a nest approximately 4 inches deep and may deposit 2-20 leathery oval shaped eggs. Females are known to produce 2-4 clutches of eggs per year. Incubation requires 10-12 weeks.
In Texas, Chicken turtles occur only in the eastern portion of the state.