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Fragile Legacy

Endangered, Threatened & Rare Animals of South Dakota

False Map Turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica)

JPG--species photo species distribution map
Status: State Threatened

Description: The false map is a medium-sized turtle. Females range from 5-11 inches (125-273 mm), mares from 3.5-6 inches (90-146 mm). It is named for its shell markings, which resemble a contour map. The middle of its upper shell is keeled, with distinct raised knobs (keels). The rear end of the carapace is roughly serrated. This turtle's shell is brown or olive colored with round or oval light markings. The head and legs are dark olive green with wavy light lines. The male has long foreclaws and a longer, thicker tail than the female. A yellowish crescent shaped mark behind each eye resembles a backward "L".

Habitat and Habits: The false map turtle inhabits slow moving rivers, river sloughs, oxbow lakes, lakes and reservoirs containing abundant aquatic vegetation and basking sites. It is active from April through October, spending much time basking on logs or rocks. The false map turtle is wary and usually diffcult to approach or capture. Feeding occurs in eafly morning on insects, worms, crayfish, mussels, snails, dead fish and aquatic plants.

Males are sexually mature by their third year, females at age 6 or 7. During the spring months, the male stimulates the female to breed by stroking her head with his long foreclaws. Mating occurs at the bottom of the lake or river inhabited by the pair. The female may have up to 3 clutches of 5-22 white, leathery eggs per season, which hatch during late summer or early fall. The false map turtle overwinters in a muskrat den, under rocks or logs or in mud in the slough or lake bottom.

Distribution: Distribution of this species includes the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio River drainages. It is found north from these drainages to Wisconsin, North Dakota, Indiana and Ohio and east to Kentucky and Tennessee. This species is also found in the Sabine River system of Texas and Louisiana. South Dakota is on the northwestem edge of its range, with reports from Bon Homme, Buffalo, Brule, Chafles Mix, Clay, Corson, Gregory, Hughes, Lyman, Union and Yankton Counties along the Missouri River.

Conservation Measures: The false map turtle may be more abundant than previously thought. Inventories of Missouri River system habitats are needed to more accurately determine its abundance in South Dakota.

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