New Jersey State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites
#WildlifeWednesday-Eastern Painted Turtle
Have you heard that an Eastern painted Turtle can breathe out of its butt?
You read that right! Butt-breathing is one of the amazing adaptations the eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) has to survive the winter. They spend the winter buried in the mud under a slow-moving body of water. When they are under the water, they are not able to breath out of their lungs like they would in the warmer months. Instead, they begin to rely on other methods to obtain oxygen, such as cloacal respiration. Cloacal respiration is where blood vessels near the cloacal (the end of the digestive track) take in oxygen from the water. Butt breathing is not the only thing these turtles do to get through the winter. They also have an antifreeze system in place. When their surroundings are frozen, chances are these cold-blooded creatures will be too. Their cells are able to produce something called Cryoprotectants which prevents large ice crystals from forming and damaging their cells.
The eastern painted turtle is one of the most common turtles we have here in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. In the warmer months, you may see them basking on logs or swimming around catching aquatic insects. The eastern painted turtle is also most noted for the beautiful colorations along their shell, neck and head. It is because of these colorations that they got their name.. The bottom of their shell (plastron) is a very bright yellow, and the top of their shell (carapace) has vibrant red stripes underneath. Their head has lustrous yellow stripes followed by radiant red stripes that flow down their neck and limbs making this turtle a wonderful sight to see.
Make sure to keep an eye out come spring as the baby eastern painted turtles make their way out into the world. While the eggs hatch in the fall, the babies will stay in their nest throughout the winter.
Article by Nicole Bendixen- Seasonal Naturalist at Brendan T Byrne State Forest