Description and Identification
Sacalia quadriocellata has a very similar appearance to its closest relative, Sacalia bealei (Beal's Eyed Turtle). The primary identifying feature of the Four-Eyed Turtle is the set of four, well-developed, colorful ocelli on the top and back of the head -- there is typically variation between the sexes, and sometimes from individual to individual. These ocelli are often yellow in juveniles and females or light blue-green in males. In either case, there is a central black dot. In comparison, S. bealei often only has two well-developed ocelli, while the front pair is often poorly-defined or faded in color. The carapace of the Four-Eyed Turtle is brown to a blackish or dark green, and often has a mottled appearance in adult specimens, with the darker areas focused around the seams of the scutes. The carapace is oval and has a central keel that softens with age. The head is a dark beige, but sometimes blackish or bluish and can be marked with mottling or light spots, particularly between the jaw and ears. The skin of the beck is marked with a few yellow stripes, medium in width and regularly spaced that originate at the skin fold behind the head and disappear at the base of the neck. The feet are well webbed. As with many species, males typically have longer, thicker tails.
The Four-Eyed Turtle has an interrupted range. The holotype specimens described by Siebenrock were found in Phuc Son, Vietnam, north of Annam. The range of S. quadriocellata stretches from central and southern China -- including the provinces of Guangdong, Hainan, Guangxi, Fujian, and Jiangxi -- into eastern Laos and northern Vietnam.
Sacalia quadriocellata lives in streams and small brooks in woodland, mountainous regions. They are found below 500 meters in altitude, most often between 170 to 470 meters.
The Four-Eyed Turtle is omnivorous, but has a fondness for earthworms, mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish.
There is little information available on the wild behavior of Sacalia quadriocellata. Their habitat makes them difficult to track in the wild without disturbing them, so most of the behavioral studies have been done on captive specimens. Regardless of being wild or captive, S. quadriocellata is a species that spends much of its time resting, however females tend to be more active than their male counterparts. In captivity, activity rhythms peaks between 0700-1300 hours with a sub-peak from 1900-0300 hours. Percentage of time dedicated to feeding peaks from 0700-0900 and 1900-0300. However, in the field, movement was most frequent from 1800-0600, with less activity from 0600-1200 and almost no activity from 1200-1800. Movement in the wild had more variables -- it was related to suitable temperatures, lower disturbance, and relative abundance of food.
Annual behavior rhythms have also been observed in Four-Eyed Turtles. Annual activity peaks from April through September; however, male activity declines in June, while female activity spikes. Female activity also spiked in January when the largest amount of egg-laying activity occurs. However, in captivity, egg-laying activity peaks from late-May to mid-June.
Courtship between Four-Eyed Turtles always takes place in water and is initiated by the male. When the female is resting, the male initiates courtship by orienting face-to-face and approaching slowly toward the female with head and neck extended, pointing at her. When the female is moving, the male begins courtship by chasing her, either by swimming or walking quickly along the bottom of the stream or pool. When the male gets close to the female, he begins a variety of sniffing patterns, based on the positioning of each turtle. Sniffing appears to serve at least two purposes. The primary function is recognition of species/gender, including whether the female has ovulated or not. The vent and inguinal region of S. quadriocellata becomes aromatic during reproductive responsiveness. Secondly, touching by the male seems to stimulate the female.
Head-bobbing is another popular courtship technique used by males, and often can last 41 seconds. When a female becomes receptive to a male's attempts to mate, she relaxes her tail. At this point, the mail positions himself to copulate with the female, then intertwines his tail with hers.
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|IUCN Red List:
|Endangered A1d+2d (2000)
|Clemmys bealii quadriocellata, Sacalia bealei quadriocellata
Editors: Stephen J. Enders, Anthony Pierlioni, Chris Leone, Andrew S. Weber, Ben Forrest, and Andrew Hermes
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