Yellowmargined box turtle

Cistoclemmys flavomarginata


Cistoclemmys flavomarginata Gray, 1863, Mainland China and Taiwan. Two or three subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES Japanese: Hakogame.


A small turtle (up to 7 in [17 cm] carapace length) with a high-domed carapace, unserrated posteriorly, with a distinct yellow vertebral stripe. The plastron is large and unnotched posteriorly, with a movable hinge between the pectoral and abdominal scutes, and the plastral lobes are capable of closing the shell opening completely. A single lemon-yellow stripe passes posteriorly from the eye onto the neck.


Southern China, Taiwan, and the Ryukyu Islands. HABITAT

This species may occasionally inhabit freshwater ponds and streams, as well as rice paddies, but spends most of its time terrestrially in primary and secondary forests.


These turtles are often considered to be semiaquatic, but some populations may be almost exclusively terrestrial in their habits. Their ability to close up the plastron like a box is an adaptation for terrestriality, both for predator protection and desiccation resistance. On Taiwan terrestrial home ranges average 1.2 acres (0.5 ha) for females and 8.6 acres (3.5 ha) for males. Adults overwinter terrestrially by burying themselves under leaf litter or fallen logs or in the abandoned burrows of other animals.


These turtles are apparently omnivorous. They are attracted to traps baited with bananas in the field in Taiwan, but they eat both plant and animal matter in captivity. They are reported to consume worms, insects, snails, and fruit.


During courtship the male rams the front of the female's shell to subdue her, and then moves to mount her shell from behind for copulation. On Taiwan this species is estimated to mature at 12 or 13 years. Females apparently nest from May through at least July on Taiwan, May to perhaps September on mainland China, and June to perhaps September in the Ryukyu Islands. On Taiwan, females produce one to three clutches per season; however, some females apparently do not reproduce every year. The shallow nests (2-3 in [5-8 cm]) are constructed at well-drained, open sites at the edges of forests. The clutch size ranges from one to four eggs. Eggs are elongate, brittle-shelled, and measure 1.6-2.1 in (40-54 mm) in length, 0.9-1.1 in (23-28 mm) in diameter, and 0.4-1.0 oz (12-27 g) in mass. Incubation apparently takes about two months, but the effect of incubation temperature on sex is unknown. This species apparently hybridizes with Geoemyda japonica.


This species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. It is removed by humans for consumption for food and traditional medicine and for pets, and is also affected by habitat destruction (i.e., forest cutting).


These turtles are eaten by local people and also are exploited for the pet trade. ♦

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