Sexing tie-dyed turtles


I found this juvenile male Western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) today. He was full of energy after eating the sardine bait in the hoop trap. You might be wondering how you determine the sex of these colorful creatures. There are three ways to distinguish the sex of a turtle: 1) length of front nails; 2) body size; and 3) vent position on tail.

Males typically have longer front nails and smaller body weights and carapace lengths.  In case you were wondering, carapace isn’t referring to his codpiece, but his shell, so I’m not trying to demean their manhood! Longer nails are used chiefly for courtship and mating.  It’s ironic that this trait would be a sign of femininity or poor hygiene with human males, altogether unattractive to the fairer sex!  Conversely, females have shorter nails with larger bodies to allow more room for a clutch of 1- 25 eggs.  The best way to determine the sex at any life stage (hatchling, juvenile or adult) is to check the position of the vent on the tail in relation to the shell edge. When you flip the turtle over and pull the tail back, don’t be surprised if he/she dumps a present on you after all this excitement! If the vent opening (also known as the cloaca in anatomical jargon) is within or at the marginal of the shell, it’s a female, if it is past the outer edge, it’s a male.

Once the turtle has been sexed, measured and weighed, we file a unique notch on the marginals of his/her shell so he/she can be identified again in future surveys. This does not hurt the turtle and is analogous in humans to filing down finger or toe nails. It’s always wonderful when you release them back into the lake and see a blur of tie-dyed reds, yellows and greens swimming aerodynamically underwater, painting a world within a world for you to discover and explore.

About tyler4turtles

I am an avid photographer, poet, ecologist, bookworm, blogger, art enthusiast and runner who calls Montana home but lives in Oregon.
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23 Responses to Sexing tie-dyed turtles

  1. Nice claws:) Pretty turtle.

  2. becky6259 says:

    Now that’s stuff about turtles I never knew — if I see a turtle again I’ll have to check, just because I know how to now!

  3. Gallivanta says:

    Very informative. Thanks.

  4. 🙂 Tortie expert textpert. 🙂

  5. Apurva says:

    wow! another interesting turtle! I’m beginning to love turtles now thanks to you! 🙂

    • Thank you, Apurva! I’m so happy you are hopping on the turtle bandwagon! Trust me, once you glimpse a gleaming carapace and tease out a smiling face, you’ll never want to get off. I hope you had a wonderful day, my friend!
      Tyler 🙂

  6. PigLove says:

    Oh tied dyed turtle – what big claws you have! XOXO – Bacon

  7. is it just me or are those unusually long claws?

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  10. Reblogged this on The ancient eavesdropper and commented:

    Happy World Turtle Day!

  11. Arlene says:

    I saw this little one while fishing at a local pond. Here is the link on wordpress for a photo of it.

  12. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    Thanks for the great info. Nice photo too!

  13. Thank you for this Tyler . I learned a great deal from you today . Love your photo . Happy Memorial Day ! WG

  14. Athena says:

    Tyler this is so inspiring and cool, thanks for this story xx

  15. Athena says:

    It reminds me of this cute clip LOL was this you as a kid?

  16. A Really Small Farm says:

    I had read somewhere that the longer claws on males were used in courtship. Do you know whether that is true?

  17. Lola Jane says:

    These painted turtles are beautiful, and now I know how to tell male v. female, ha! So interesting! Thanks for re-posting this for new followers like me, who may not have seen yet.

    I love turtles, and posted about the giant Pacific leatherback (California’s official state marine turtle 🙂 ) and our own connection to them here in the Monterey Bay

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