Ouachita Map Turtle

Graptemys ouachitensis ouachitensis

Ouachita map turtle

Ouachita map turtle
David Ostendorf

Emydidae (basking, marsh, and box turtles) in the order Testudines (turtles)


This is a small- to medium-sized, semiaquatic turtle with a prominent ridge down the center of the upper shell, and bright yellow lines on the head and limbs. The upper shell is brown or olive, with connected yellow lines and circles. The rear edge of the upper shell is strongly serrated. The lower shell is plain yellow. The head and limbs are olive with numerous thin yellow lines. There is a wide yellow or orange-yellow marking behind each eye that extends, narrowing, on top of the head; there is also a large yellow spot below each eye.

Similar species: To identify our 3 map turtles, look at the yellow spots near the eye. Northern map turtles have only a small yellow spot behind each eye. False map turtles have a thick yellow line behind each eye that forms a backward L shape.


Upper shell length: 6 to 10 inches.

Habitat and conservation

This turtle lives in slow-moving rivers, sloughs, oxbow lakes, and reservoirs.


Ouachita map turtles eat insects, worms, crayfish, snails, naiads, dead fish, and aquatic plants.

image of Ouachita Map Turtle Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Presumed to be scattered in rivers and streams throughout the Ozark region.

Life cycle

The life cycle of this species is similar to that of the false map turtle. It may be active from late March to early October. To overwinter, it usually takes shelter in mud at the bottom of the body of water they inhabit. Courtship and breeding occur in the water, usually in the spring. Egg-laying begins in June and lasts through July, and hatching takes place in late summer or early autumn.

Human connections

Map turtles, when young, are sometimes kept as pets. Conservationists in Europe are concerned that US-exported aquatic turtles, if released into the wild, become invasive in their waters. The name Ouachita is pronounced WAH-shi-tah; it’s a river in southwestern Arkansas and eastern Louisiana.

Ecosystem connections

As predators, map turtles help control the populations of the animals they consume. Map turtles are also a prey species, despite their shells. Eggs and hatchlings can become easy prey for a raccoon, snake, heron, or other predatory animal large enough to swallow them.