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What is a Common Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)

Common Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) Overview

The Common Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) is a terrestrial turtle species native to North America. Known for their distinctive high-domed shell and hinged plastron, these turtles are well-adapted to life on land. They are omnivorous, primarily feeding on insects, vegetation, and carrion, and are generally docile creatures. Their unique features and adaptations make them an important part of their ecosystems.

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  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Genus: Terrapene
  • Species: T. carolina

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Size and Body Description

The Common Box Turtle has a high-domed shell measuring between 4.5 to 6 inches (11.5 to 15 cm) in length, with the males typically being slightly larger than females. The shell is covered in scutes, which are individual plates made of keratin. The carapace, or upper shell, exhibits a wide range of colors and patterns, varying from brown to black with yellow, orange, or olive markings. The plastron, or lower shell, has a hinge that allows the turtle to completely close its shell for protection from predators. Box turtles have sturdy, elephant-like legs and sharp claws, which help them navigate their terrestrial habitat. Length


Common Box Turtles are omnivorous, with their diet consisting of a mix of plant material and animal matter. They primarily feed on insects, such as worms, beetles, and slugs, as well as small invertebrates like snails and spiders. In addition, they consume fruits, berries, mushrooms, and various types of vegetation. Occasionally, they may also eat carrion.


Box turtles reach sexual maturity between 5 to 10 years of age. Mating typically occurs in spring and fall, with the females laying a clutch of 1 to 11 eggs in a shallow nest dug in the soil. The eggs are left to incubate for about 70 to 90 days, with the temperature determining the sex of the hatchlings. Higher temperatures produce females, while lower temperatures yield males. Hatchlings are independent from birth and receive no parental care.

Where Found

The Common Box Turtle is found across the eastern United States, from southern Maine to Florida, and west to the eastern parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. They inhabit a variety of habitats, including deciduous forests, grasslands, marshy areas, and suburban gardens.

How Long do Common Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) Live

Box turtles are known for their longevity, with some individuals living up to 50 years or more in the wild. However, their average lifespan is around 25 to 35 years. In captivity, with proper care, they can live up to 40 years or longer. Factors that impact their lifespan include habitat destruction, predation, road mortality, and illegal collection for the pet trade.