Pseudemys peninsularisPeninsula Cooter

Geographic Range

Pseudemys floridana penisularis (Peninsula cooter) is found throughout the Florida peninsula. The northern limit of the range is unknown (Ernst and Lovich 2009; Thomas and Jansen, 2006), though it is assumed that individuals are only found south of Alachua County. Identification of individuals has become challenging due to taxonomic changes and invasion of other floridana sub-species into the range. One study has identified Peninsula cooters in the North and South peninsula, but not the panhandle (Enge, 1997). ("Habitat Occurrence of Florida's Native Amphibians and Reptiles", 1997; Ernst and Lovich, 2009; Thomas and Jansen, 2006)


Peninsula cooters occupy any bodies of freshwater found in the range (Thomas and Jansen, 2006), though the primary habitats are floodplain swamps, basin marshes, and occasionally tidal marshes (Enge, 1997). Slow moving or stagnant waterways with abundant basking sites, submerged vegetation, and sandy bottoms are the most preferred (Ernst and Lovich, 2009; Thomas and Jansen, 2006). ("Habitat Occurrence of Florida's Native Amphibians and Reptiles", 1997; Ernst and Lovich, 2009; Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range elevation
    1 to 76 m
    3.28 to 249.34 ft
  • Average elevation
    4 m
    13.12 ft

Physical Description

Peninsula cooters exhibit a moderately domed carapace measuring 25-40 cm in length (Thomas and Jansen, 2006), and a plastron measuring 24-35 cm. The carapace is typically dark with light yellow or orange parallel lines. The plastron is unhinged and has an unremarkable, nondescript pattern. The skin is dark with longitudinal yellow stripes around the head and on the neck. Hatchlings have a mid-dorsal keel and are more green in color; however, this changes as the individual matures. All Pseudemys floridana species also do not have a notch in the upper jaw, while most other emydids do. (Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    3.6 to 5 kg
    7.93 to 11.01 lb
  • Range length
    25 to 40 cm
    9.84 to 15.75 in


Pseudemys peninuslaris lays eggs diurnally and correlates with rainfall (Thomas and Jansen, 2006). The eggs are retained in the oviducts for less than two weeks; however, captive individuals can retain eggs for up to sixty days and postpone development until the eggs are laid. Type 1A temperature dependent sex determination is seen in this species. The entire clutch hatches within three days, and females can lay up to three clutches per year. Most clutches hatch in the late summer or early fall; however, some clutches will overwinter in nests and hatch in early spring. Hatchlings range in size from 18-33 mm in length. (Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

  • Development - Life Cycle
  • temperature sex determination


Little is known about the actual mating process of many turtle species, including Pseudemys peninsularis (Thomas and Jansen, 2006). Females reach sexual maturity at 5-7 years old, and males at 3-4 years old, with an average lifespan of 30 years. Females are typically larger than males and have higher domed carapaces, as well as shorter front claws. Tittilation behaviors are thought to represent courtship, but that remains undetermined. Typically, when copulation occurs, the male and female are seen facing the same direction before the male extends his head down towards the female then drops his tail and hind limbs behind the female carapace. The two individuals then sink to the bottom, and researchers presume copulation occurs. (Thomas and Jansen, 2006; Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

Female peninsula cooters can lay up to three clutches per year (Thomas and Jansen, 2006), with a gestation period of 72 days with the longest documented period being 150 days. Eggs are typically deposited from the oviducts after two weeks; however, under certain conditions, the eggs can be retained for up to 60 days. Nests are built in open sandy areas with light cover with one deep central chamber and two to three satellite chambers. Researchers believe this is done as an anti-predatory tactic. Clutches contain 11-16 offspring. Females reach sexual maturity at 5-7 years, and males are sexually mature at 3-4 years. (Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

  • Breeding interval
    Females can lay up to three clutches per year.
  • Breeding season
    Eggs are usually laid in May or June, with births occurring in late summer or early fall.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    72 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    5-7 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3-4 years

Peninsula cooters do not exhibit parental care or nest guarding. The female is responsible for nest building and egg laying, but after that point, there is no more care given.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Little information is available regarding longevity of the species; however,oon average, peninsula cooters have a life expectancy of 30 years (Congdon and Gibbons, 1989). Growth rates and lifespans are altered by competition with invasive species for food and habitat (Thomas and Jansen, 2006). (Congdon and Gibbons, 1989; Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    30 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    30 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    30 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    30 years


Little information is described about the behavior of the peninsula cooter. It appears that this is a solitary species, aside from mating. They can be seen basking in small groups, but they do not establish hierarchies. Peninsula cooters can also often be found moving around the habitat, usually guided by resource needs.

Home Range

Little information is found describing home range of the peninsula cooter. It is believed that they develop relatively large home ranges, which they seldom or never leave.

Communication and Perception

Peninsula cooters use visual and tactile techniques for communication; although, they are occasionally vocal during mating or egg laying. Most tactile and visual communication occurs during mating, when the male performs for the female and uses his claws to touch her head (Thomas and Jansen, 2006). (Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

Food Habits

Pseudemys penisularis is a herbivorous species (Thomas and Jansen, 2006). Adults feed solely on plants and filamentous algae, but some juveniles may eat insects or small fish. Some common diet items include Naias sp., Sagittaria lorata, Lemna sp., filamentous algae, Ceratophyllum sp., Vallisneria americana, Potamogeton illinoisensis, and Hydrilla verticillata (Bjorndal et al. 1997; Marchand, 1942; Thomas, 1972). (Bjorndal, et al., 1997; Marchand, 1942; Thomas and Jansen, 2006; Thomas, 1972)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • fruit
  • algae


Adult peninsula cooters have very few predators (otters and alligators); however, a variety of animals prey upon the eggs (Thomas and Jansen, 2006). Because the eggs are so vulnerable, the egg-laying female often builds a series of nests. One nest will contain the majority of the eggs, and the other nests will only contain one or two eggs. This technique is the only well-known anti-predatory technique described. (Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

Ecosystem Roles

It has been established that peninsula cooters are an integral part of the ecosystem, but the full magnitude of how remains unknown (Thomas and Jansen, 2006). Because they appear to be such an integral portion of the ecosystem, scientists have begun referring to peninsula cooters as a keystone species. (Thomas and Jansen, 2006)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Researchs speculate that this species plays an integral role in the ecosystem; however, specific roles are unknown. Often, these individuals are exploited as part of the pet trade because they are easy to care for and maintain.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

While peninsula cooters do not actually pose negative effects to humans, there are a few myths that would indicate they do. Many fisherman shoot these individuals because the fisherman are convinced the turtles are killing and eating the game fish. This is inaccurate, because this species is solely an herbivore. A few juveniles eat fish, but only small fish such as minnows. Another people use them as cheap target practice.

Conservation Status

Although the current conservation status of Pseudemys peninsularis is Least Concern, there are still some threats affecting the species. The largest threat is habitat loss and degradation (Ernest and Lovich, 2009; Thomas and Jansen, 2006). The abundant aquatic vegetation found in the habitats is also being rapidly degraded by the invasive Asian Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella). Water edge habitat is also being degraded by human recreational activities, leading to decrease nesting sites. Many individuals are also being exploited as part of the pet trade. (Ernst and Lovich, 2009; Thomas and Jansen, 2006)


Ciera McCoy (author), Missouri State University, Brian Greene (editor), Missouri State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

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


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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).

keystone species

a species whose presence or absence strongly affects populations of other species in that area such that the extirpation of the keystone species in an area will result in the ultimate extirpation of many more species in that area (Example: sea otter).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

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


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


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


lives alone


mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


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.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. Habitat Occurrence of Florida's Native Amphibians and Reptiles. Tallahassee, Florida: Kevin Enge-Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. 1997.

Bjorndal, K., A. Bolten, C. Lagueux, D. Jackson. 1997. Dietary overlap in three sympatric congeneric freshwater turtles (Pseudemys) in Florida. Chelonian Conservation and Biology, 2: 430-433.

Congdon, J., J. Gibbons. 1989. Freshwater Wetlands and Wildlife. Oak Ridge, Tennessee: U.S. Department of Energy Technical Information Center.

Ernst, C., J. Lovich. 2009. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Marchand, L. 1942. A contribution to the knowledge of the natural history of certain freshwater turtles. M.S. Thesis, University of Florida, 1: 1-27.

Thomas, K. 1972. The annual cycle of reproduction of the emydine turtle, Pseudemys floridana floridana with observations on its ecology. M.S. Thesis, Auburn University, 1: 1-30.

Thomas, R., K. Jansen. 2006. Pseudemys floridana-Florida Cooter. Chelonian Research Monographs, 3: 338-347.