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Living Sanibel: The Florida Box Turtle

By Staff | Oct 14, 2011

The Florida box turtle is semi-aquatic, at home in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. In freshwater it prefers to remain in the shallows and does not appear to be a good swimmer. It has a life expectancy of more than 100 years, making it the longest-living organism in this book. Because the only other contender for this distinction is the loggerhead turtle, whose actual lifespan has yet to be verified, the lowly Florida box turtle may well be the longest living animal in The Living Gulf Coast.

Easily identified by its high, arching domed carapace with bright orange-yellow markings, the box turtle is commonly kept as a pet. Collecting this turtle for the pet industry was recently outlawed, however, and the species is now protected in Florida. Because of the box turtle’s popularity, Florida has imposed a two-turtle possession limit.

The box turtle’s diet consists of insects, carrion, dung, and toxic fungi. The box turtle cannot be eaten by humans or other mammals because of the build-up of toxicity in its flesh from eating poisonous mushrooms and other fungi. Because of that, the box turtle is seldom preyed upon as an adult. That may be why it is so brightly patterned, much like other toxic and poisonous species. Some juveniles and hatchlings are taken by fire ants, herons, and skunks.