Turtles are reptiles.
Turtles have a shell and no teeth.
The shell has as many as 60 bones. It has two sections: a carapace, covering the animal's back, and a plastron, covering its belly.
Most Illinois turtles can pull their head and neck into the shell.
Turtles usually have a tail.
The largest Illinois turtle is the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii). The biggest one ever found in our state weighed about 160 pounds.
The smallest Illinois turtle is the spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata). Its greatest recorded shell length in Illinois is 4.7 inches.
Turtles are found statewide in Illinois. Some turtle species live in specific habitats. For example, the eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina) is a woodland species, and the ornate box turtle (Terrapene ornata) is a prairie species. Rivers are the favored habitat of the smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica), alligator snapping turtle and northern map turtle (Graptemys geographica). Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) are commonly associated with marshes. Mud turtles visit temporary ponds or wetlands, while the eastern musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) resides in permanent water. The snapping turtle, painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), pond slider (Trachemys scripta) and spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera) turtle thrive in a variety of habitats and conditions.
Most Illinois turtles eat any plant or animal material they can find. Some turtles eat mainly animals. Diets of certain species change with age. For example, young pond sliders eat insects. Adult pond sliders, however, eat more plants than any other food type.
Reptiles produce young in eggs with a leathery shell. In turtles, the eggs are deposited on land in a nest, usually a hole in the ground scooped out with the female turtle's back feet. After egg-laying, the female uses her back feet to pull dirt into the hole and pack it down. Most Illinois turtles lay oval eggs, but softshells and snapping turtles lay spherical eggs. Small species, such as the spotted turtle, may lay only three to five eggs in a nest, while the larger snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) lays 20 to 40 eggs.