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Common sliders (Trachemys scripta) are mid-sized turtles prevalent in areas throughout their United States homeland, specifically its central and eastern regions. These reptiles are called sliders because of how they react when fearful or alarmed -- by rapidly making their way back into their aquatic environments. Boy and girl common sliders are sexually dimorphic, and therefore don't look exactly alike.
The common slider umbrella consists of three subspecies, which are yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta), red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) and Cumberland sliders (Trachemys scripta troostii). These subspecies are all similar, but can also usually be easily distinguished based on coloration clues. In nature, common sliders reside mostly in sludgy and still rivers. The presence of ample water plants is important for them. Basking locations are always a must for these turtles. Common sliders are omnivores that feed on a broad assortment of both plants and flesh -- think crustaceans, fish, water lilies and water insects.
One prominent difference that exists between male and female common sliders involves their cloacas, which are the cavities that lead the way to the genitals. Male common sliders' cloacas are situated slightly past the sides of their upper shells. The cloacas of the females, in contrast, are typically located just below the posterior sides of their upper shells. The girls' cloacas sometimes are even located directly on the posterior sides of their upper shells, rather than below.
The upper shells of common sliders are often handy for telling apart boy and girl slider turtles. Females' carapaces tend to be a little longer, say a maximum of 11.4 inches upon maturity. The males' carapaces, on the other hand, usually don't exceed 9.4 inches. Female common sliders generally become sexually mature when their upper shells are anywhere between 5.9 and 7.8 inches in length. For men, reproductive maturity comes at upper shell lengths of between 3.5 to 4.3 inches long.
Boy common sliders are usually a little smaller than the females of the species. However, they make up for it by having tails that are significantly wider and longer than the females' tails.
Observing the claws of boy and girl slider turtles also can be useful for gender identification purposes. Male common sliders possess markedly sharp claws, which they employ heavily before the reproduction process, specifically for drawing in and attracting the ladies.
A quick observation of these turtles during times of mating also can be effective for distinguishing the genders. The reproductive season for common sliders begins in March and ends in June. The males attempt to gain the attentions of the females through dancing. They look straight at the females they want, extend their frontal limbs and even place their long claws on their necks and heads, pulsating them at the same time. Male common sliders occasionally even nip the females. If a female picks up on a male's cues and is willing to mate, you might notice her quickly dropping to the ground.
- World Association of Zoos and Aquariums: Common Slider
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Trachemys scripta
- University of Michigan BioKIDS: Pond Slider
- International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species: Trachemys scripta
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Slider Turtle
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images