Barbours Map Turtle

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Species group:

Other common names: Graptemys barbouri

Scientific name: Graptemys barbouri

The basics:
The Barbour’s Map Turtle’s range is restricted to the Apalachicola River System in the Florida Panhandle and Georgia, USA. It is found only in clear, limestone-bottomed streams that contain numerous fallen branches and trees. Largely aquatic, this turtle spends much time basking on logs and rocks, plunging into the water when disturbed. The Barbour’s Map Turtle feeds only in water, and, except when nesting, rarely travels far from shore.

Appearance / health:
Females are among the most impressive of all map turtles, with noticeably-broad heads and shells that may approach 12 inches in length. The narrow-headed males are so much smaller – a mere 3.2-5.2 inches – that they appear to be of a different species. The carapace is brown to olive-green, with pale yellow or white marks along its edge, and is topped by 2 spine-like ridges; yellow stripes decorate the neck and legs, and there are blotches of yellow behind the eyes.

Behavior / temperament:
Barbour’s Map Turtles are not as hardy as related species, and are best reserved for experienced turtle-keepers. Although somewhat shy, most adjust well to captivity, but they may not become as responsive as other map turtles. All turtles are capable of administering powerful bites and scratches when frightened, and must be handled with care. Barbour’s Map Turtles can be aggressive towards other turtles, and must be watched carefully if housed in groups. Males often harass females with mating attempts, and may stress or bite them in the process; 2 males cannot be kept together, as they will usually fight.

These large, active turtles require spacious aquariums. While a 30-55 gallon aquarium might suit a small male, females need tanks of 75-100 gallon capacity, or commercial turtle tubs and ponds. Bare-bottomed enclosures are preferable, as gravel greatly complicates cleaning. The aquarium should be equipped with a dry basking site, UVB bulb, heater, and powerful filtration. Ambient water temperature: 72-80 F; Basking temperature: 90-95 F

Turtles are messy feeders, and quickly foul even well-filtered aquariums. Removing your pet to a plastic storage container at feeding time will lessen the filter’s workload and help to maintain good water quality. Partial water changes (i.e. 50 % weekly) are also very useful. Filters designed specifically for turtles, if serviced regularly, are usually preferable to those marketed for use with tropical fish. Some folks find it easier to maintain their aquatic turtles in plastic storage containers that can easily be emptied and rinsed.

In the wild, female Barbour’s Map Turtles feed almost entirely upon fresh water mussels and snails. Males take smaller snails, insects, crayfish and fish. Pets should be offered a diet comprised largely snails, crayfish, and mussels, along with whole fishes, earthworms and prawn. Goldfish should be used sparingly, if at all, as a steady goldfish diet has been linked to kidney and liver disorders in other turtle species. Super mealworms, roaches, crickets and other insects may be used to add variety to the diet. A high quality commercial turtle chow can comprise up to 40% of the diet. A cuttlebone should be available to supplement the calcium provided by whole fishes and similar foods.

Field studies indicate that females take 20 or more years to reach breeding age. This fact, a small natural range, and over-collection for the pet trade threaten the future of the Barbour’s Map Turtle. Reproduction has not been well-studied in the wild, but pets have produced 6-9 eggs in June and July. Gravid (egg-bearing) females usually become restless and may refuse food. They should be removed to a large container (i.e. 5x the length and width of the turtle) provisioned with 6-8 inches of slightly moist soil and sand. Gravid females that do not nest should be seen by a veterinarian as egg retention invariably leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis). It is important to note that females may develop eggs even if unmated, and that captives may produce several clutches each year. The eggs may be incubated in moist vermiculite at 82-86 F for 60-85 days.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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