Composite Account
Chrysemys picta
(Schneider) – Painted Turtle
Chrysemys dorsalis  Agassiz – Southern Painted Turtle
Chrysemys picta (Schneider) – Painted Turtle and Chrysemys dorsalis Agassiz – 
Southern Painted Turtle

Click on Map for Enlarged View                          Click for Photos of Both Species

     Exact locality, based on specimen(s) or photographs examined
     Exact locality, based on literature record believed valid
     Approximate locality based on specimen(s) or photographs examined
     Approximate locality based on literature record believed valid
     County record only, based on specimens or photographs examined
     County record only, based on literature report believed valid
     Type locality
?      Questionable and/or problematic record

Taxonomy:  Bishop and Schmidt (1931) recognized four subspecies of Chrysemys picta.   These included C. p. picta, C. p. belli, C. p. dorsalis, and C. p. marginata.  Ernst (1970) studied several morphological characters and provided a discussion of the presence or genetic influence of three subspecies in Tennessee and Kentucky.  These included C. p. picta, C. p. dorsalis, and C. p. marginata.  The map provided by Conant and Collins (1998) illustrates the distribution of all subspecies in North America including the three subspecies reported in Tennessee by Ernst (1970).

Based on an analysis of mitochondrial DNA, Starkey et al. (2003) presented evidence that C. dorsalis should be considered a distinct species.  Iverson et al. (2012), listed C. dorsalis (Southern Painted Turtle) and C. picta (Painted Turtle) as separate species.  According to Iverson et al. (2012) no subspecies are recognized for C. dorsalis and three subspecies are noted for C. picta.  These three subspecies included C. p. belli (Western Painted Turtle), C. p. marginata (Midland Painted Turtle), and C. p. picta (Eastern Painted Turtle).

In summary, based on external morphology and molecular characteristics, C. dorsalis and two subspecies of C. picta (C. p. picta and C. p. marginata) have been reported to occur in Tennessee.

Distribution: Results provided by Starkey et al. (2003) revealed that the use of currently reported morphological characteristics may not allow the identification of the subspecies of  C. picta, including the newly elevated species, C. dorsalis. An analysis of mitochondrial DNA is required.  Our examination of museum specimens and review of specimens documented in the literature did not allow us to separate C. picta from C. dorsalis or the subspecies of  C. picta with an acceptable level of confidence. 

In the literature, there appears to be support indicating that the presence of a broad mid-dorsal red stripe on the carapace is a characteristic that distinguishes C. dorsalis.  Starkey et al. (2003) stated “the broad, red mid-dorsal stripe of dorsalis provides one striking morphological apomorphy for this species (Carr 1952) and dorsalis is instantly recognizable morphologically.”

Considering all of the above, we decided to present locality data for these two species using two maps.  One is a composite map (see above) that includes all locality data for both species. The other map depicts only those museum- and literature-based localities where we were able to determine if the specimen(s) possessed a broad mid-dorsal red stripe on their carapace.  Many museum specimens were solely represented by skeletal remains and some literature sources did not provide information on the mid-dorsal red stripe.  As a result, the second map is a small subset of the composite map and is incomplete in terms of accounting for all specimens that possessed a broad mid-dorsal red stripe.  However, if this characteristic proves to be useful in the identification C. dorsalis, this map could be considered a preliminary range map for the species in Tennessee.

Members of this species complex probably occur statewide in Tennessee.  Verified localities are lacking for several north-central and south-central counties.  It appears that specimens with a broad mid-dorsal red stripe are found mostly in West Tennessee.  In addition, specimens with a narrow and nearly indistinct mid-dorsal red stripe were observed from West Tennessee, especially the Reelfoot Lake area.

Museum Records by Counties: Anderson—UMMZ 218720-218724.  Benton—CMNH 76065.  Blount—FLMNH 2244, 2246, 25470.  Bradley—TU 21437.  Carroll—USNM 85496.  Chester—APSU 19169.  Claiborne—CMNH 87383, 87384, 87387, 87389, 87390, 87393-87395, 87406, 87407.    Dickson—APSU 2234.  GreeneAPSU 19142.  Hamblen—UMMZ 96265-96271.  Houston—APSU 6005.  Humphreys—APSU 4485; CMNH 28987.  Knox—UMMZ 74185; USNM 86685-86694, 86729, 86781, 86782; UTKVZC 4374, 4375.  Lake—APSU 12398, 12734, 12735; CMNH 87241, 87242, 87244, 87248-87252, 87264, 87265, 87345-87355, 87360-87362, 87438-87440, 95430, 95431, 95460-95468, 95488-95509, 95537, 95538, 96121-96142, 101336-101383, 105117-105164, 108310, 108333-108344, 108347-108350, 108372-108377, 108402-108409, 108415, 108416, 108460-108462, 108473, 108474, 108707-108716, 150960; KU 156276; SIU R-1545, Uncataloged (1specimen); TTU 320, 444; TU 19859; UIMNH 1281-1290, 15783, 22616, 62368; USNM 100651, 100652; UTKVZC 6616, 6632-6635; UMMZ 84184.  Lauderdale—APSU 19411.  Madison—UMMZ 74147.  McMinn—FLMNH 2245, 2247;  SIU R-4021.  Monroe—FLMNH 22402-22404, 25471; USNM RH-81-146; UTKVZC 4791.  Montgomery—APSU 1400-1402, 2984, 3240, 3291, 3524, 5568, 17570, 18025.  Obion—APSU 3185, 3290; CMNH 95439, 95440, FLMNH 9721, 12973-1- 12973-5; KU 88815-88831, 91358, 91359; LSUMZ 34927; MoSU R3653; UL 3980, 4123, 4124, 4210, 4211; UMMZ 53225, 53262, 70728, 74144-74146, 74621-74638, 99616, 218736, 218737; USNM 102906.  Rhea—FLMNH 2241-2243.  Shelby—APSU 16498, 16499.  Stewart—APSU 711, 5472, 5479.  Van Buren—APSU 18957.  Weakley—APSU 19444.

Literature Sources by Counties: Anderson—Meyers-Schöne and Walton (1990), Meyers-Schöne et al. (1993), Starkey et al. (2003), Jensen et al. (2015).  Bledsoe—Thawley (2013a).  Blount—King (1939), Johnson (1954), Huheey and Stupka (1967), Ernst (1970),  Tilley and Huheey (2001), Starkey et al. (2003).  Campbell—Ernst (1970).  Carroll—Ernst (1970).  Cheatham—Ernst (1970).  Chester—McReynolds and Butterfield (2012).  Davidson—Hopkins (1990).  Decatur—Ernst (1970).  DeKalb—Ernst (1970).  Dyer—Ernst (1970).  Gibson—Miller (1995a).  Grainger—Ernst (1970). GreeneDaniels et al. (2012).  Hamblen—Gentry (1956), Hutchinson et al. (1966), Ernst (1970).  Hamilton—Ernst (1970).  Hardeman—Norton (1971), Norton and Harvey (1975). Hawkins—Alsop (1975).  Haywood—Stanley (2005).  Henry—Ernst (1970).  Humphreys—Gentry (1956), Ernst (1970).  Jefferson—Rodgers and Schreiber (1958).  Knox—Ernst (1970).  Lake—Parker (1937a), Ernst (1970), Moll (1973), Collins et al. (1997), Glorioso and Niemiller (2006), Jaeger (2008).  Lauderdale—Flaherty et al. (2013c).  Madison—Ernst (1970).  McMinn—Johnson (1954), Ernst (1970).  Monroe—Johnson (1958), Ernst (1970).  Montgomery—Scott (1967), Scott and Snyder (1968), Ernst (1970), Fitch (1998).  Obion—Parker (1937a), Ernst (1970), Bull et al. (1982), Collins, et al. (1997), Starkey et al. (2003).  Rhea—Johnson (1954), Ernst (1970).  Roane—Krumholz (1954), Johnson (1964), Meyers-Schöne and Walton (1990), Meyers-Schöne et al. (1993).  Rutherford—Edney (1949).  Shelby—Justis (2006).  Stewart—Ernst (1970), Scott (1990).  Unicoi—Campbell (2013c).  Warren—Ernst (1970).  Weakley—Flaherty et al. (2014a).  White—Ernst (1970).

Questionable and/or Erroneous Records:  None.

Conservation Status:  None.

Posted: 7 August 2012

Latest Revision: 24 August 2015

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