Florida Redbelly Turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

Description: A large: 8-14 inches (20.3-37.5 cm), basking turtle with a highly-domed shellPseudemys nelsoni usually has strong reddish to orangish tint on plastron that is very distinctive in young. Juveniles also exhibit plastral markings in complete semicircular form also the seams of the plastron. Broad vertical stripe on second costal is also indicative of this species. Few head stripes are seen but a light stripe running between the eyes creates an arrowhead pointing at the snout. The notch on the upper jaw of the Florida Redbelly is bordered on either side by strong cusps.

Range and Habitat: Found primarily in Florida for the Suwannee River area south with an isolated population found in Apalachicola on the panhandle, with extensions into very southeast Georgia, where it is common on Cumberland Island. Introduced populations can be found in Texas. Pseudemys nelsoni can be found in streams, ponds, lakes, ditches, sloughs, marshes and mangrove-bordered creeks- usually water with rich aquatic plant life.

Habits: Often can be observed basking. Adults are primarily herbivorous. Adults lay between 12 and 30 eggs in late spring to early summer, and often nests in alligator nests or away from water.

Conservation: While not listed with the Georgia DNR, Pseudemys nelsoni has been considered “imperiled” for its small range in Georgia. Not ranked in Florida or Texas.

Account Author: Amelia Gleaton, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson