Pearl River Map Turtle

Graptemys pearlensis (State Status: S2; imperiled)

Description

Pearl River Map Turtles are found exclusively in drainages and water bodies closely related to the Pearl River. Shells are more ovular and streamlined than its habitat conspecific, G. oculifera, with pronounced keel and row of dorsal spines. Shell color is brown or olive with light yellow rings on the front pleurals. The species is identified with its large colored blotch between the eyes (often bluish, green, or yellow in hue) as well as river locality. These map turtles exhibit extreme sexual dimorphism, with females being up to and over 10 times as large as some males. Females will also sport megacephalic head development to aid in crushing shelled organisms such as mollusks. Map turtles often bask on branches, logs, and other vegetative matter, often angled at 45°. Despite the IUCN endangered status, this turtle may be locally abundant and is not yet listed under the US Endangered Species Act as G. oculifera and G. flavimaculata are.

Basking male, St. Tammany Par. (LA)

Identifying Traits

  • Large colored blotch between eyes (separates from ringed)
  • Found only in Pearl River system (separates from Pascagoula map turtle)
Range

Habitat

Rivers, tributaries, and oxbow lakes related to the Pearl River system

Behavior

Map turtles often bask on branches, logs, and other vegetative matter, often angled at 45°. 

Diet

Females use their large jaws on freshwater invertebrates such as snails and mussels, males forage on algae and vegetation

Pearl River Map Turtle, Marion Co. (MS), © Grover Brown
Basking male, St. Tammany Par. (LA)