Taxonomy

Trachemys scripta subsp. elegans | Red-eared Terrapin

Distribution

Status

Legal status

The import of this species into the EU is prohibited under the Wildlife Trade Regulation (Council Regulation 338/97) of the European Union.

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

2003

Invasiveness

Invasive species - risk of Medium Impact

Irish status

Occasionally present, casual, vagrant, migratory

Introduction pathways - 1

Escape from Confinement

Introduction pathways subclass - 1

Pet/aquarium species

Invasive score

17

Species Biology

Identification

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

Ecology

Omnivores the ecological impact of T. scripta elegans 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

Reproduction

Species is succesfully breeding in Italy (Crescente et al., 2014), Serbia (Dordevic & Andelkovi, 2015) and southern France (Cadi et al., 2004) with a breeding occuring in July with a mean brood of 4.3 (Crescente et al., 2014). Temperatures in excess of 20 degrees for 50-100 days are thought to be required for successful incubation of eggs, which are unlikely to occur in Ireland for the foreseeable future . 

Pathway and vector description

Most widely exported pet reptile with 52 million exported from the USA between 1989-1997 (Scalera, 2009). Since the ban on importation into the EU, the closely related  T. scripta troostii, T. scripta scripta and the snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine) have largely replaced this species in the pet trade. Turtles are generally sold as hatchlings and "unsuspecting turtle owners are rarely prepared to maintain large adults (up to 30 cm carapace length) in captivity for up to 50 years" (Pauline et al., 2009), with turtles release into the wild generally in urban areas.

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

Freshwater

Habitat description

Found in slow flowing freshwater habitats with soft bottoms and an abundance of aquatic vegetation (Scalera, 2009). 

Species group

Vertebrate

Native region

North America

Similar species

Trachemys scripta scripta | Yellow-bellied Slider

Distribution

World distribution(GBIF)

Widely introduced in Asia, Europe and Australia T. scripta is now present on every continent except Antartica (Scalera, 2009).

Irish distribution

Present in the wild - Three individuals have been recorded from the Phoenix Park between 2003 and 2012 suggesting that the species can survive in Ireland but not breed.

Native distribution

Native to eastern United States.

Temporal change

Date of first record category

2001-2010

Fifty year date category

2001-2050

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

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How can you help

Report any sightings of turtle species to the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Never release unwanted pets into the wild.

Further information

Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of the SSC- Species Survival Commission of the IUCN -International Union for Conservation of Nature consider this species of the 100 Worst Invaders globally.

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.

Crescente, A., Sperone, E., Paolillo, G., Bernabò, I., Brunelli, E. and Tripepi, S., 2014. Nesting ecology of the exotic Trachemys scripta elegans in an area of Southern Italy (Angitola Lake, Calabria). Amphibia-Reptilia, 35(3), pp.366-370. 

Ðordevic, S. and Andelkovic, M., 2015. Possible reproduction of the red-eared slider, Trachemys scripta elegans (Reptilia: Testudines: Emydidae), in Serbia, under natural conditions. HYLA-Herpetološki bilten, 2015(1), pp.44-49. 

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.

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

Meyer, L., Du Preez, L., Bonneau, E., Héritier, L., Quintana, M.F., Valdeón, A., Sadaoui, A., Kechemir-Issad, N., Palacios, C. and Verneau, O., 2015. Parasite host-switching from the invasive American red-eared slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, to the native Mediterranean pond turtle, Mauremys leprosa, in natural environments. Aquatic Invasions, 10(1), pp.79-91.  

Scalera, R. (2009) Trachemys scripta (Schoepff), common slider (Emydidae, Reptilia). In: Handbook of Alien Species in Europe, DAISIE. Springer.

CABI Datasheet


Global Invasive Species Database


DAISIE Factsheet

Images