Graptemys flavimaculataYellow-blotched Map Turtle

Geographic Range

Graptemys flavimaculata are only found in the Pascagoula River drainage, occurring in the Pascagoula, Leaf,

and Chickasawhay Rivers in southern Mississippi in the United States. Based on mark and recapture studies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks biologists estimated the population at 336 individuals per mile in the lower Pascagoula River, while basking studies on the upper Pascagoula, Leaf and Chickasawhay rivers revealed an average of four turtles per mile (USFWS 1992).


Graptemys flavimaculata usually live in sand and clay bottomed streams with moderate to rapid currents, and several hours of sun penetration daily. Piles of brush and debris provide basking locations, and tangled roots provide shelter. (Barbour 1989; USFWS 1992).

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

Graptemys flavimaculata, an aquatic turtle species, has very pronounced sexual dimorphism in body size. The larger adult females measure between 14.9-18.0 cm, whereas the adult males measure between 6.7-11.0 cm. They are small, narrow-headed turtles with a serrated posterior carapacial margin, and laterally compressed spinelike vertebral projections. The spines are a major characteristic of adult males and juveniles but are less noticeable in females. The carapace is olive to light brown in color, with each costal scute marked by a bright yellow or orange blotch. The shape of this blotch varies from a bar to a semicircle, or a complete circle. The marginal plates have orange bars or semicircular patterns that open posteriorly. The hingeless plastron is light cream in color, with a black pattern extending along the seams. These black markings fade with age. The head of yellow-blotched map turtles is small to moderate in size with a nonprojecting snout and has neither hook nor notch on the upper jaw. The skin is olive colored with yellow stripes. Overall, yellow stripes can be found on the head, neck, legs, and tail. A yellow triangle or spot is common behind the eye. Generally, the yellow color dominates throughout the body of Graptemys flavimaculata (Ernst et al.1994; Barbour 1989).


The reproductive habits of Graptemys flavimaculata are poorly studied. During courtship, male and female attempt to stroke one another's heads with their claws while facing each other (Wahlquist 1970, cited in Ernst et al. 1994). Nesting occurs in the sand and gravel bars adjacent to the rivers in which these turtles occur (USFWS 1992). It is believed that Graptemys flavimaculata have a similar reproductive pattern to other related Graptemys species which reach reproductive maturity between the ages of 6 to 9 years. They produce 3-4 clutches of eggs with 5-7 eggs per clutch (Champie 1998) .

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)


Graptemys flavimaculata, like all the

other map turtles, bask to warm themselves. It is very difficult to approach them. Females may bite when handled, but males and juveniles remain calm, and withdraw into their shells. These aquatic turtles spend most of their time in the water (Barbour 1989).

Food Habits

Graptemys flavimaculata eat insect larvae and mollusks, and it has been speculated that there may be a sexual difference in feeding preference in this species as in other map turtles (Ernst et al. 1994; George 1991).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

These turtles have been collected commericially, and have been listed for retail sale at $65 each. However, enforcement of laws protecting these animals has likely curtailed this activity (USFWS 1992).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative


Conservation Status

Graptemys flavimaculata is endangered. Although apparently not affected directly by pollution, populations may decline as pollutants adversely affect their food supply of insects and mollusks. Declining populations are attributed to channel modification for flood control and navigation purposes, which destroys basking and nesting areas, and increases siltation and turbidity of rivers, causing disruption in the food supply (USFWS 1992). Populations may also be threatened by the habit of local sportsmen of using basking turtles for target practice (McCoy and Vogt 1980, cited in Ernst et al. 1994). An estimated cost for the recovery of this species over a fifteen year period is $845,000 (Champie 1998).

Other Comments

Graptemys flavimaculata are known commonly as yellow-blotched map turtles or the yellow sawback turtles.


Denia Carvajal (author), University of California, Irvine, Rudi Berkelhamer (editor), University of California, Irvine.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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.


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


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

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


The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).


Barbour, R., C. Ernest. 1989. Turtles of the United States. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky.

Champie, D., S. Kroos. 1998. "Yellow-Blotched Map Turtle" (On-line). Accessed Feb 20, 2001 at

Ernst, C., R. Barbour, J. Lovich. 1994. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

George, G. 1991. "Map Turtle Status and Conservation by Greg George" (On-line). Accessed Feb 20,2001 at

McCoy, C., R. Vogt. 1980. Distribution and population status of the yellow-blotched sawback, Graptemys flavimaculata . Final Report. U.S. Dish and Wilslife Sercice Contract No. 14-16-0004-79-038: 23 pp.

U S Fish and Wildlife Services, 1992. "YELLOW-BLOTCHED MAP (=SAWBACK) TURTLE, Graptemys flavimaculata , U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service" (On-line). Accessed Feb 20, 2001 at

Walquist, H. 1970. Sawbacks of the Gulf coast. International Turtle and Tortoise Society Journal, 4: 10-13, 28.