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Differentiating Male and Female Chrysemys picta (Painted Turtle) - Darrell Senneke

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Unlike some species of turtles and tortoises it is fairly easy to distinguish the  sex of adult Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta). The following is a straight forward pictorial guide to help identify which sex animal you may have.  It should be noted that the sexual morphometric differences do not manifest until the animals start to mature.  There is no tried and true method of determining the sex of hatchlings.   


Painted turtles can be of 4 different subspecies, the Eastern Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta), the Midland or Midwestern Painted turtle (C. p. marginata), The Southern Painted turtle (C. p. dorsalis) and the Western Painted turtle (C. p. belli) as well as intergrades of all of these. The same sexually distinguishing characteristics apply to all the subspecies.


Please also see the related World Chelonian Trust web pages on this species at:

Chrysemys picta - (Painted Turtle) Care -  Darrell Senneke

Differentiating Painted Turtles - Darrell Senneke

 Chrysemys gallery


There are three ways to sex this species, two involve the tail and one the front claws. These methods will not have application for very young specimens as in the photo of the young Eastern Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) below. As Painted turtles mature the differences become apparent.



Looking at the pictures below of C. picta marginata / C. picta picta intergrade specimens, the animal on the left has a longer tail which is wider at its base.  The female on the right has a smaller  tail in terms of both length as well as width. 

Chrysemys picta  Male

Chrysemys picta Female


The second method involves the cloacal opening.  The cloacal opening of the male Painted turtle on the left (same C. p. picta / C. p. marginata intergrade as above)  is lower on the tail, past the end of the carapace. The cloacal opening of the female C. p. marginata on the right is much closer to the base of the tail. 


Chrysemys picta  Male

Chrysemys picta Female


The third method of differentiating the sexes in Chrysemys picta is the length of the front claws. Males have much longer front claws which they wave and stroke the female with during courtship.  Note the length of the front claws on the male on the left below a compared with the female on the right.  

Chrysemys picta  Male Chrysemys picta Female


By using the above methods it becomes quite easy to determine the sex of Painted turtles with a glance.  In particular if both sexes are present, as in the photograph below,  the identification becomes automatic.


Pair - Chrysemys picta dorsalis - male on right


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