Info on Identifying Southern US Turtles?

I’ve been trying to ID the aquatic turtles of the Southern states for quite a while now, but I have not yet learned the difference between similar species, such as cooters. It seems like the Florida red-bellied cooter ( Pseudemys nelsoni) looks like the river cooter ( Seudemys concinna), along with the peninsula cooter ( Pseudemys peninsularis) which sometimes looks like both. A lot of the observations are marked cooters or something in general, so I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has trouble with this.

I guess my main question is, is there something specific to each species to look out for to help with identifying? Whether it is sometimes about the location, perhaps the shell… Anything would be much appreciated!

Mostly I stick to lizards, snakes, and birds, but it would be nice to have something else to ID. Thanks!


The Pseudemys in the SE US can be tough and the turtle experts have argued about them for years. Here are publications for P. concinna and P. nelsoni which might be helpful.

The book Turtles of the US and Canada by Ernst and Lovich is also a good reference but I don’t have my copy at hand.



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