Taxonomy

Trachemys scripta scripta | Yellow-bellied Slider

Distribution

Status

Legal status

Regulated invasive  species of Union concern under the European Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species [1143/2014].

Native status

Non-native

First reported in the wild

2009

Invasiveness

Invasive species - risk of Medium Impact

Irish status

Present in the wild

Introduction pathways - 1

Escape from Confinement

Introduction pathways subclass - 1

Pet/aquarium species

Invasive score

17

Species Biology

Identification

Medium sized freshwater turtle with yellow patches on the side of the head. Can be confused with the the  Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), which has red patches, though the species are extremely similar. 

Ecology

Omnivorous similarly to its closely related relative T. scripta elegans, the ecological impact of T. scripta scripta in Europe is unknown though they are thought to impact negatively on native turtles in a number of regions in Europe (Meyer et al., 2015; Scalera, 2009), the United States (Pearson et al., 2013) and Asia (Ramsay et al., 2006) and have introduced novel parasites to native turtle species (Meyer et al., 2015). As no native turtles species occur in Ireland any impact would likely to be on ecosystem functioning and general biodiversity. Pond studies in the United States have shown ponds with turtles have significantly higher pH, accumulation of sediment, leaf litter decomposition rates and abundance of invertebrates specifically Hemiptera and Ephemeroptera (Lindsay et al., 2013). They may predate on amphibians, small mammals and birds (Scalera, 2009) though this has not been measured outside of its native range. 

Habitat

Inland surface waters

Pathway and vector description

After the importation of Trachemys scripta elegans into the EU was prohibited (Wildlife Trade Regulation, Council Regulation 338/97 of the European Union), Trachemys scripta scripta largely replaced it as the most popular reptile in the pet trade. From there turtles are generally released into the wild by their owners upon releasing that 30cm adults that live for 50 years are difficult pets to maintain.

Mechanism of impact

Competition, Predation, Disease transmission, Grazing/Herbivory/Browsing

Management approach

There is currently an EU wide ban on the sale of this species and personal and zoo ownership are being phased out (European Commission, 2017).
Eradication of this species could be achieved if attempted. The animals can easily be detected in their basking sites predominantly in urban areas (Bringsøe, 2006). A variety of methods can be used including hand capture, nets, pitfalls and fences. The use of baited cages on floating rafts can be very effective. Dogs can be trained to locate and collect turtles and eggs. Egg removal should also be carried out. This can be achieved by following the females back to the nest (EEA, 2012).

Broad environment

Terrestrial

Habitat description

Found in slow flowing freshwater habitats with soft bottoms and an abundance of aquatic vegetation.

Species group

Vertebrate

Native region

North America

Similar species

Trachemys scripta subsp. elegans | Red-eared Terrapin

Distribution

World distribution(GBIF)

To date not as widely distributed as T. scripta elegans though potentially could be introduced to a large number of countries through the pet trade.

Native distribution

Native to the eastern United States.

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2017

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How can you help

Report any sightings of turtles to the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Do not release unwanted pets into the wild.

Further information

Trachemys scripta elegans is listed by the the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of the SSC- Species Survival Commission of the IUCN -International Union for Conservation of Nature as one of the 100 Worst Invaders. T. scripta scripta is a similar species and is likely to have similar ecological impacts.

References

Publications

Bringsøe, H. (2006): NOBANIS – Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet – Trachemys scripta. – From: Online Database of the North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Species – NOBANIS www.nobanis.org Site accessed 21 October 2017.

European Commission. (2017). Invasive Alien Species of Union Concern. European Union, Luxembourg.

European Environment Agency (EEA) (2012). The impacts of invasive alien species in Europe. Technical report No 16/2012. EEA, Copenhagen. 114 p. https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/impacts-of-invasive-alien-species Site accessed 20 October 2017.

Images