Cuora flavomarginataSnake-eating Turtle

Geographic Range

Yellow-margined box turtles can be found in China, mostly along the Fuchun, Pearl, and Yangtze River drainages. In Japan they are found mostly in southern Ryukyu and Tiawan, in the Tamsui River. (Fong, et al., 2002; Lue and Chen, 1999)


Yellow-margined box turtles live in areas with wet winters and hot summers. Their habitats are highly variable because these turtles are semi-aquatic. They spend much time on land in hilly, dense evergreen forests, low elevation grass lands, and in aquatic systems such as rice patties, streams, and rivers. During the winter these animals can be found hibernating under logs, undergrowth, thick leaves, and even in abandoned burrows. Habitats vary with reproductive state and season. Reproductive females, from April to July, are found in evergreen forest edges and from August to March, they are found in evergreen forest interiors. Females that aren't reproducing are found in evergreen forest interiors. (Gomez, 2008; Lue and Chen, 1999; Ota, et al., 2009)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range elevation
    200 to 500 m
    656.17 to 1640.42 ft

Physical Description

Yellow-margined box turtles are mostly dark brown. The shell is highly domed and dark-colored dark with some red and pale yellow stripes. Color intensity may fade with age. The limbs are dark brown. The forefeet have five claws and the rear have four. The head is also brown with pale green on top, apricot-pink under the neck, and bright yellow lines behind both eyes along the side of the face. Males and females look mostly alike. Females are typically larger and males have broader, larger, more triangular tails. (Chen and Lue, 2002; Gomez, 2008; Ota, et al., 2009)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    1000 (high) g
    35.24 (high) oz
  • Range length
    120 to 190 mm
    4.72 to 7.48 in
  • Average length
    160 mm
    6.30 in


Juvenille turtles (1 to 11 years old) grow at 1.8 to 12 mm per year. After males reach sexual maturity they stop growing. Females continue to grow until age 18. (Chen and Lue, 2002; Connor and Wheeler, 1998)


Yellow-margined box turtles mate year round, but most mating activity is from November through March. Males normally breed with more than one female throughout the breeding year. Copulation takes approximately 10 minutes. (Lue and Chen, 1999)

Before nesting, females spend much of their time in open, sunny areas to keep their body temperatures up and accelerate egg development. Then nesting occurs during the summer months, May through September. The clutch is laid in shaded, soft, damp sand or soil. There can be 1 to 4 eggs per clutch and a possibility of many clutches per season. In total there are 4 to 9 eggs laid. The eggs are 38 to 52 mm long by 13 to 25 mm wide and weigh 11 to 18.5 g. The time from mating to hatching is anywhere from 68 to 101 days. Hatchlings weigh between 8 and 13 g at hatching. (Becker, 1996; Connor and Wheeler, 1998; Gomez, 2008; Lue and Chen, 1999; Ota, et al., 2009)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding typically occurs several times throughout the year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding can occur throughout the year but is most common from November to March.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 9
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    68 to 101 days
  • Range time to independence
    10 to 15 hours
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    14 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    13 years

There is little parental care in this species. The female will bury the eggs before hatching, protecting the eggs from predators. (Ota, et al., 2009)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Nothing is known about lifespans of yellow-margined box turtles.


Activity patterns of Yellow-margined box turtles are influenced by seasonal climatic changes. They are most active from early April to late October and are less active during the rest of the year. Activity also varies between sexes, females tend to be more active than males and reproductive females are more active than non-reproductive females. (Lue and Chen, 1999; Ota, et al., 2009)

  • Range territory size
    700 to 63,900 m^2

Home Range

Home range size and location varies, but is correlated with reproductive state, nesting needs, and overwintering. (Lue and Chen, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Like many other turtles, yellow-margined box turtles have poor hearing, a good sense of vision and smell, but mosty use touch to communicate. (Knipper, 2002)

Food Habits

Yellow-margined box turtles are omnivorous. In the wild they eat snails, slugs, worms, berries, and leaves. In captivity they are fed a similar diet, along with vegetables and cat food. Though cat food has been proven to have too much fat in it. Sheep bones, with the fat removed are also fed to the turtles for a good source of calcium. Captive turtles in early life stages should not eat as much because it could cause shell deformities. (Connor and Wheeler, 1998)

  • Animal Foods
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


In the wild, eggs are preyed upon by Taiwan kukri snakes, Iriomote cats, and large, predatory birds. To protect the eggs, females cover them with dirt and dig nests in protected areas. (Ota, et al., 2009; Ota, et al., 2009)

Ecosystem Roles

Yellow margined box turtles are predators of fish, insects, and mollusks. Other ecosystem roles have yet to be researched. (Connor and Wheeler, 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Yellow margined box turtles are harvested for human consumption, to make traditional Chinese medicine, and to be kept as pets. Their medicinal value is not supported by research and these activities may threaten populations of turtles. (Ota, et al., 2009)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of yellow margined box turtles on humans.

Conservation Status

Yellow margined box turtle populations have declined in various areas. This has been caused by habitat destruction (land development and agriculture), over harvesting for human consumption and traditional Chinese medicine, and also harvesting for the pet trade. Populations are now protected in Taiwan and Japan. (Gomez, 2008; Lue and Chen, 1999; Ota, et al., 2009)


Taylor Johnson (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


Asian Turtle Trade Working Group. 2000. "Cuora flavomarginata" (On-line). RThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed March 12, 2011 at

Becker, H. 1996. Remarks on husbandry and breeding of Cuora flavomarginata (GRAY, 1863). Salamandra, 32/2: 65-72.

Chen, T., K. Lue. 2002. Growth Patterns of the Yellow-Margined Box Turtle (Cuora flavomarginata) in Northern Taiwan. JOURNAL OF HERPETOLOGY, 36/2: 201-208. Accessed March 15, 2011 at


Connor, M., V. Wheeler. 1998. "The Chinese Box Turtle" (On-line). California Turtle & Tortoise Club. Accessed March 15, 2011 at

Fong, J., J. Parham, J. Fu. 2002. A REASSESSMENT OF THE DISTRIBUTION. Russian Journal of Herpetology, 9: 9-14.

Gomez, M. 2008. Cistoclemmys flavomarginata. Reptilia: The European Herp Magazine, 61: 13-19.

Knipper, K. 2002. "Chrysemys picta" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 06, 2011 at

Lue, ., T. Chen. 1999. Activity, Movement Patterns, and Home Range of the Yellow-Margined Box Turtle (Cuora flavomarginata) in Northern Taiwan. Journal of Herpetology, 33/4: 590-600. Accessed March 10, 2011 at

Lue, K., T. Chen. 2008. Thermal preference of the yellow-margined box turtle. Amphibia-Reptilia, 29: 513-522. Accessed March 12, 2011 at

Ota, H., Y. Yasukawa, J. Fu, T. Chen. 2009. Cuora flavomarginata (Gray 1863) - Yellow-Margined Box Turtle. Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises, 5: 35.1-35.10.

Riemer, D. 1986. OBSERVATIONS ON CHOICE NESTING SITES. Northern Ohio Association of Herpetologists, 13: 7-10.