The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is widely distributed from coast to coast in North America with each of four subspecies generally occupying different regions. In the southwestern USA and northern Mexico, where C. p. bellii is the expected native race, populations are small and widelyscattered. Introduced populations of other painted turtle subspecies are reported from various locations in the USA. We discovered a small but dense introduced population of C. p. marginata on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona, a region with few, if any, turtles due to aridity and an elevated topography with little surface water. The turtles were in a remote pond constructed to provide cattle with water. Chrysemys p. marginata occur naturally east of the Mississippi River, over 2,000 km away. The nearest native population of C. p. bellii in Arizona is over 160 km away. We observed nesting females, juveniles, and the presence of shelled eggs in females via Xradiography confirming a self-sustaining population. The body sizes and nesting season we observed were consistent with data for those variables from native populations of the taxon. It is unknown exactly how the turtles came to be established in such a remote location, but it is unlikely that they will spread due to the scarcity of perennial water sources in the semi-arid region. Due to increasing drought frequency and duration in the region, small populations like this one, introduced into a novel environment, may be bellwethers for monitoring the effects of climate change.
Vol. 38 • No. 1
Vol. 38 • No. 1