Diamond-backed Terrapin

Malaclemys terrapin (State Status: S2; imperiled)


The Diamond-backed Terrapin is the only member of its genus in the United States, and the only brackish-water specialist species in North America. Shell is oval-shaped with distinct hexagonal or pentagonal scutes. Mississippi individuals are usually gray or black colored with grey skin that is dotted with black. Mississippi Diamond-backed Terrapins typically have a brown or black diamond shape on the top of the head. Individuals are exclusively found on the coast in saltmarshes, brackish bays, and natural beaches. 

Adult female seen after nesting, Jackson Co. (MS)

Identifying Traits

  • Distinct “hexagonal” carapace scutes
  • Light gray skin, often dotted black

Subspecies Present:

Mississippi Diamond-backed Terrapin (Malacelmys terrapin pileata)


Brackish water, saltmarshes, beaches and barrier islands



Often enters crab traps to forage and can become stuck. Nests along coastline


Marine invertebrates such as snails, crabs

Anterior view of a female terrapin, Jackson Co. (MS)
Comparison of coloration in two individuals from the same clutch, Harrison Co. (MS)
Subadult moving into habitat, Jackson Co. (MS)
Clutch of juveniles being released as part of a headstart program, Jackson Co. (MS)
Dorsal view of a terrapin, Jackson Co. (MS)