Bio Facts: Slider, Meso-American
Trachemys scripta venusta
Pond sliders are native to the Nearctic and Neotropical regions. They are found from the southern Great Lakes region east to West Virginia, west to Indiana and Illinois and south throughout most of the southeastern and south-central United States. The range of pond sliders continues through Mexico and Central America to Venezuela in South America.
Pond sliders prefer quiet, soft, muddy bottomed waters with suitable basking spots. They are faithful to their home ranges, leaving only to nest or hibernate.
In the wild, the average life expectancy is 30 years; some have reportedly lived to 42 years.
Females – 5 to 7 years; males 3 to 5 years
In the wild, young pond sliders tend to be more carnivorous than adults, eating about 70% animal matter and 30% plant matter. Adults eat 90% plant matter and 10% animal matter. Foods include aquatic insects, snails, tadpoles, crawfish, fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. They also eat plants like arrowhead, water lilies, hyacinths, and duck weed. In the Zoo they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available turtle food, romaine lettuce and assorted greens.
Male pond sliders have a unique courtship dance that they engage in anywhere between the months of March and July. Males will approach a female from the front, stretch out their front feet and vibrate their long claws on the female’s head and neck. Some may even bite the female. The female usually continues to swim forward while the male does this and, if receptive, will eventually stop and sink to the bottom. The male will then grip the female’s carapace with all four claws and arrange himself on top of her. He will then bend his tail under hers, let go of his front arms, and take an almost vertical position. From this position mating occurs, and lasts about 15 minutes.
Pond sliders enjoy basking on logs, rocks, or stumps near the water. Pond sliders are often observed in large groups mainly because of their aggregation on limited numbers of basking sites. Sometimes you can see sliders stacked on top of each other three high. The name “slider” refers to the quick retreat from their basking site into the water when they feel even the slightest bit threatened. Sliders will sleep at night underwater, usually resting on the bottom or floating on the surface, using their inflated throat as a flotation aid.
Feeding occurs under water, usually in the early morning or late afternoon.
Pond sliders communicate with touch and vibrations. They also have a good sense of vision.
Pond slider eggs that are incubated at temperatures between 71.6°F (22°C) and 80.6°F (27°C) become only males, while eggs that are incubated at warmer temperatures become females. Baby sliders come out of the egg looking like small adults.
Pond sliders help to control populations of the animals that they consume and affect aquatic vegetation as they graze. Young pond sliders are an important food source for large, aquatic predators.
Sliders have been heavily collected for the pet trade and are sold by the millions in pet shops across the world. Because of unsanitary conditions and a lack of knowledge on turtle care, few survive for long in captivity. U.S. government regulations now require turtles to be at least 4 inches in length before they can be sold as pets in the USA. However, many hatchlings are still produced commercially for export to Europe, Mexico, and Japan where they are popular as pets. Commercial turtle farms rarely qualify as “closed systems,” and farm breeding stock is often augmented by the capture of wild turtles. In recent years, numbers of adult sliders and related turtle species have been trapped for the food trade; many have been exported to Asia. Native slider populations are declining due to habitat destruction and pollution as well as overharvesting. However, because of the release of unwanted pets, sliders have established populations outside of their native range. They have been found in California, France, South Africa, Bahrain, Japan, South Korea, Guam, and Thailand. These introduced populations may have some effect on native fauna and species, but to date there is little evidence supporting this. The biggest threat to sliders is man. Not only are they exploited for the pet and food trade, but slider eggs are also used as fish bait. Sliders are often killed on roads by automobiles, and are sometimes persecuted by fishermen who mistakenly consider the turtles to be fish eaters.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
Although the common slider has been part of the Jacksonville Zoo collection off and on since at least 1971, its Meso-American subspecies has only been in the collection since 2003.