Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Nature: Endangered Reptiles (4)
Central Florida sand skinkSand Skink (Neoseps reynoldsi) Threatened- A unique lizard adapted to an underground existence, the sand skink measures 4 to 5 inches in length and has a gray to tan color. The sand skink has a wedge-shaped head, a partially countersunk lower jaw, body grooves into which the forelegs can be folded, and small eyes which have transparent windows in the lower lids. These features enable the lizard to swim beneath the surface of loose sand. The diet of this species consists of surface-dwelling invertebrates, including beetle larvae, termites, spiders, and larval antlions. They only occur in central Florida — 115 known sites were recorded in 1999. However, researchers acknowledge that Sand Skinks are difficult to detect and might be found in more places with a suitable habitat if searched for sufficiently. Known habitat occurs in the Lake Wales Ridge but it is also found on the Winter Haven Ridge in Polk County and the Mount Dora Ridge.

Florida gopher tortoiseGopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)  Threatened- Gopher tortoises live in well-drained sandy areas with a sparse tree canopy and abundant low growing vegetation. They are commonly found in habitats such as sandhill, pine flatwoods, scrub, scrubby flatwoods, dry prairies, xeric hammock, pine-mixed hardwoods, and coastal dunes.  Of the animals tied to the sandhill community, the gopher tortoise  may be most crucial. An amazing trait of the gopher tortoise is that it shares its burrow with more than 350 other species, including burrowing owls, Florida mice, indigo snakes opossums, rabbits, gopher frogseastern diamondback rattlesnakes and gopher crickets. Gopher tortoises can live 40 to 60 years in the wild and average 9 to 11 inches in length.

Barbour's map turtle in FloridaBarbours Map Turtle (Graptemys barbouri) SSC- Barbour's Map Turtle  is found in the Apalachicola, Chatahoochee and Chipola Rivers in Florida. This is a medium to large size turtle. Males are about 3.5 to 5.5 inches as adults and females are about 6 to 12.5 inches long.  This turtle is part of the broad head group of map turtles and therefore is mostly a crustacean (mollusk) eater, but they are also opportunistic so insects and fish could also be eaten.  It has a domed shell keel that is exaggerated as a hatchling and slowly wears down with age. This turtle lives in a large sandy/muddy limestone rivers.  Juveniles and males prefer brush piles along the sides of the river. Females, once again, prefer deeper water and tend to bask a little bit further out into the river.  Basking tends to be on large stems of trees instead of small branches.

alligator snapping tutle in FloridaAlligator Snapping Turtle  (Macroclemys temminckii) SSC- The prehistoric-looking alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in North America and among the largest in the world. With its spiked shell, beak-like jaws, and thick, scaled tail, this species is often referred to as the "dinosaur of the turtle world." Found almost exclusively in the rivers, canals, and lakes of the southeastern United States, alligator snappers can live to be 50 to 100 years old. Males average 26 inches in shell length and weigh about 175 pounds, although they have been known to exceed 220 pounds . The much smaller females top out at around 50 pounds.

striped mud turtle in FloridaStriped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon baurii) Endangered- Throughout much of its range in Florida, the striped mud turtle is characterized by yellow head stripes and three light longitudinal stripes on a dark brown carapace. This turtle is only 3 to 4 inches in length and has a double-hinged plastron, similar to the eastern box turtle. The sexes can be distinguished by the longer, thicker tails of males. The striped mud turtle is different from most other turtles species in the Southeast in that females nest in the fall, rather than the spring or summer. Striped mud turtles inhabit calm freshwater habitats, such as swamps and canals with soft substrates and are most common in cypress swamps and blackwater creeks.

Florida Suwannee CooterSuwannee Cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis) SSC- The Suwannee Cooter is found in drainage areas of rivers that feed into the Gulf of Mexico from Hillsborough to Gulf County. Its shell has yellow markings that appear to be spirals at a short distance. It also has yellow stripes on its head and front feet. It reaches a maximum length of 16". It leaves its water habitat only to nest during the summer. The name "cooter" comes from "kuta", the word for turtle in several African dialects. Small invertebrates, such as worms, snails, slugs, insects, thin-shelled bivalves and crayfishes and other crustaceans make up the bulk of the animal food in the turtle diet.
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