Turtle Care - Turtle sexing and breeding

Turtles that are being raised in captivity can still mate and have cute little turtle babies. The captive turtles’ sexing process may be more difficult to take place than in the case of wild turtles, but it is worth trying. There are some basic things you should know about the turtle sexing process. The first step is to establish the sex of your pet.

Therefore, if you are the proud owner of a turtle but you don’t know whether your pet is a male or a female, here are some hints you could use when trying to determine its sex. Keep in mind though that there aren’t any clear-cut rules, so it’s best to ask a veterinary to make sure.

The males are usually smaller than the females. This rule seems to apply to most species. Yet males have bigger tails than females. Males’ tails are long and thick at the base. Females’ tails are short and stubby.

Males’ vent (cloaca) is positioned 2/3 from the shell towards the tip of the tail. In other words, the vent opening is placed farther from the bottom shell (plastron) compared to the position of the females’ vent.

Males of water turtle species grow long claw on their front feet.

Males have a flat or almost concave plastron to better fit on the females’ back. Females have a flat or even convex plastron to offer more space for the eggs.

An important aspect you should know about the turtle sexing process is the fact that not all water turtle species can be bred in captivity. Only some have been reported to have been successfully bred.

The water turtles sexing process may be an amazing experience for an observer. You should know that, during the mating process, the male’s penis is protruding and it looks like an ‘opening flower’. Copulation is happening the moment the male is introducing its penis into the female’s cloaca.

The breeding process comes after the turtle sexing process. Water turtles incubate their eggs by burying them in 1-2 inches of sand or dirt. The usual temperature of this habitat is 70-85 F. Water turtle eggs must not be disturbed during the incubation process. The eggs will hatch in 60-140 days, depending on the species of the water turtle.

The interesting thing about turtles sexing and breeding is the fact that the future sex of water turtles is influenced by the temperature used to incubate the eggs. For instance, it is known that the eggs of a certain species of water turtles (the Red-Eared Slider), when incubated at 85 F will yield mostly female baby turtles. Male baby turtles are being yield out of eggs incubated at 75 F. But the percentage of each sex will be approximately equal if the eggs are being reared at 80 F. This amazing process doesn’t happen though for all water turtles. For some chelonian species (tortoises) a higher incubation temperature will produce more male turtle babies, instead of female babies as stated above.

When the time comes, the water turtle babies are leaving their hatching nests. A more accurate term is that they are digging their way out of the nest in the sand. These brave little fellows have a sharper protuberance (called egg tooth) on the upper beak. They use this ‘egg tooth’ to emerge from the egg to the daylight.

Sometimes accidents happen and some of these babies are hatching prematurely. In these situations, the yolk sac can be seen hanging from the lower shell. These prematurely ‘born’ turtle babies can still be saved as long as the sac is being kept moist. You should wrap saline-soaked gauze around the yolk sac until the nutritive substances inside the sac have been completely eaten by the turtle baby. Don’t try to feed the water turtle baby during this time as it can not eat on its own, it is extracting all its necessary food out of the yolk sac.

In conclusion, the turtle sexing process can happen in captivity if the owner is willing to invest time and care in order to have a large family of healthy turtle babies.