Description and Identification
Graptemys ouachitensis is a medium to large map turtle. Females will typically reach an SCL of 7-9”(17.7-22.9cm), max 9.5” (24cm), while males stay smaller at an SCL of 3.5-5” (8.9-12.7cm), max 5.5” (14cm). The carapace is olive to brown with yellow vermiculated markings and dark blotches on each pleural scute. The carapace also has a distinct keel and its posterior edge is serrated. Vertebral spines are noticeable in hatchlings and juveniles, but almost completely disappear in adult females. The plastron is cream to yellow with an extensive seam following pattern that slowly vanishes with age. The skin of the head, neck, legs, and tail is olive to dark olive or brown with yellow striping. The post-orbital mark is large and typically rectangular or elongate and ovular, but can vary. There are typically large spots above and below the jaw-line on each side of the head. The post-orbital mark mentioned previously and combined with white eyes with a transverse bar and a white beak identifies G. o. ouachitensis from other similar turtles. Males will have longer and wider tails with the cloacal opening 1/2 to 2/3rds of the way down the tail , elongated foreclaws (especially the middle claw), and a more juvenile appearance. Females will have shorter, narrower tails, a much larger build, and broader heads, though not to the extent of the broad-head group of Graptemys species.
The Ouachita Map Turtle is distributed in Texas, Louisiana, eastern Kansas and Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky, Tennessee, and northern Alabama. There are disjoint populations in parts of western Kansas, south central Ohio, and West Virginia.
G. ouachitensis primarily occupies riverine habitats with fast currents and submerged vegetation. They have a preference towards deep, wide sections of the river with mud, sand or rock bottoms and high quantities of basking sites.
The Ouachita Map turtle is generally omnivorous. Prey species include: freshwater sponges; bryozoans; clams; snails; crayfish; spiders; insects and their larvae; fish; algae; carrion; and assorted seeds, fruits, and leaves of plants. Occasionally, adult females will use a feeding technique known as “benthic bulldozing”, in which large quantities of bottom detritus and benthic prey are indiscriminately ingested.
Due to G. ouachitensis having been previously listed under G. pseudogeographica, much of the behavioral history is partially masked between G. ouachitensis and G. pseudogeographica ssp. These species are active from late March to mid-October, with shorter active periods in the north and longer active periods in the south. They have a tendency to hibernate in groups. Winterkill has been documented during dry winters in some locations within the range. These species, including juveniles, spend a large portion of their day basking. Selected basking locations are seldom on or near shore and can be as high as 2m above the water surface. While basking, these species are wary and difficult to approach; one turtle re-entering the water due to disturbance often leads others to follow.
Males are sexually mature at a minimum PL of approximately 2.75" (7cm), which they typically reach by the time they are 3 years old in the wild. Females mature at a PL around 5.9-6.3" (15-16cm), which may require as many as 6-7 years to reach. Captive specimens tend to grow and mature more quickly due to a nearly year-round growing season.
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|IUCN Red List:|
|Least Concern (2011)|
|Other Accepted Taxonomy:|
|Graptemys ouachitensis ouachitensis|
|Graptemys pseudogeographica ouachitensis|
Editors: Stephen J. Enders, Anthony Pierlioni, Chris Leone, Andrew S. Weber, Ben Forrest, and Andrew Hermes
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