Skip to main content

Diamondback Terrapin

Malaclemys terrapin

A diamondback terrapin, or turtle smiles at the camera as it sits on two others
Max Size: Females 23 cm (9 in), Males average 13 cm (5 in)

Habitat: Brackish coastal tidal marshes from the Florida Keys to Cape Cod

Diet: Fish, crustaceans, marine snails and bivalve mollusks





Fun Facts:

  • By consuming snails (like periwinkles) that overgraze on ecologically important marsh grasses such as Spartina sp., terrapins can play a keystone role in supporting ecosystem health
  • Like nearly all non-avian reptiles, terrapins exhibit sexual dimorphism wherein the females are larger and stronger than males
  • The word terrapin is derived from the Algonquin word “torope” meaning “a little turtle”, and is now used to describe various brackish water turtles around the world, only 3 of which – including the Diamondback – are native to the US
  • Due to historic hunting/harvesting to make turtle soup by colonial americans, the terrapins are now protected in many states, making them illegal to hold as pets
  • To balance their body’s salt concentration, they use lachrymal (tear duct) salt glands to expel excess salt and can drink water through their nose