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Pseudemys nelsoni, 041

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Pseudemys nelsoni Carr 1938 –
Florida Red-Bellied Turtle

Dale R. Jackson1

1Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Florida State University,
1018 Thomasville Road, Suite 200-C, Tallahassee, Florida 32303 USA [djackson@fnai.org]


Summary. – The Florida red-bellied turtle, Pseudemys nelsoni (Family Emydidae), is a moderately large turtle (carapace length to 37.5 cm) that is relatively abundant in freshwater wetlands throughout peninsular Florida and extreme southeastern Georgia. The species is one of the largest emydids in North America, with females (to 37.5 cm) typically growing larger than males (to 30 cm). The post-hatchling diet consists almost entirely of aquatic plants. Mature females may lay up to five clutches of approximately 10 to 20 eggs each during May through August of each year. Direct human exploitation of the species seems to have been low in the past, but this threat may have increased in the previous decade in conjunction with growing demand by the Asian market for turtle meat. The pet trade market for hatchlings also expanded in the 1990s, with most of the demand met by take of natural nests. Recent regulations governing the harvest of turtles and eggs in Florida, however, should stem nearly all legal take in the future. The greatest potential threats to the species are pollution and drainage or alteration of wetland habitats. Although population status data are unavailable, there is no reason to believe that the species is unduly threatened.

Distribution. – USA. Distributed in peninsular Florida and southeastern Georgia.

Synonymy. – Deirochelys floridana Hay 1908 (nomen dubium), Trachemys jarmani Hay 1908 (nomen dubium), Pseudemys nelsoni Carr 1938, Pseudemys rubriventris nelsoni, Chrysemys (Pseudemys) nelsoni, Chrysemys rubriventris nelsoni, Pseudemys (Ptychemys) nelsoni (Ward 1984).

Subspecies. – None recognized.

Status. – IUCN 2009 Red List: Not Listed (= Least Concern, LR/lc) (assessed 1996, needs updating); CITES: Not Listed; US ESA: Not Listed.


Jackson, D.R. 2010. Pseudemys nelsoni Carr 1938 – Florida red-bellied turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 041.1–041.8, doi:10.3854/crm.5.041.nelsoni.v1.2010, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/.



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Pseudemys nelsoni, adult female from Big Cypress National Preserve, Collier County, Florida.
Photo by Gary Luciano.




Distribution of Pseudemys nelsoni in Florida and Georgia, southeastern USA. Red points = museum and literature occurrence records based on Iverson (1992) plus more recent and author’s data; green shading =  projected distribution based on GIS-defined hydrologic unit compartments (HUCs) constructed around verified localities and then adding HUCs that connect known point localities in the same watershed or physiographic region, and similar habitats and elevations as verified HUCs (Buhlmann et al. 2009), and adjusted based on author’s data. The questionable locality is Wacissa River (see text).