Alabama Map Turtle: Ultimate Guide

If you’re interested in learning about the Alabama Map Turtle, you might find it hard to get any information out in the wild. As soon as this interesting species feels disturbed, it dives straight into deep waters, leaving you with nothing to look at but basking rocks.

Luckily, the Alabama Map Turtle’s laid back nature makes it a good option for a pet, giving us all an opportunity to learn a little more.

If you’d like the details on this curious creature, our ultimate guide has all the information. From what it’s like in the wild, to how to care for one as a pet, we have everything you need to know about the Alabama Map Turtle.

Male vs Female

There are a few obvious differences between the male and female Alabama Map Turtle, the primary one being the size. Females are significantly larger than the male. A female will grow to an average of 7.1 to 11.5 inches, but the male is much smaller at 3.5 to 5 inches.

The female also has a bigger head, and incredibly powerful jaws. Males, on the other hand, have small heads, but longer, thicker tails. A male is also more likely to keep the bright patterning of a juvenile, where female coloring dulls as they age.


Several key features help to identify the Alabama Map Turtle, or the Graptemys Pulchra. First, the carapace, or upper shell. Colored olive green to brown, it has a black stripe running down the center and protruding knobs.

These knobs, or dorsal keels, are prominent in juveniles, but wear down with age. The outermost edge of the carapace usually has light reticulated markings. Orange, yellow, and green patterns often decorate the shells of juveniles, but they fade with age.

The lower shell, or plastron, is yellow, with black outlined scutes. The legs and neck of the Alabama Map Turtle are green with a pattern of yellow lines. They also have unusual mask-like markings around the eyes.

As a Pet

The Alabama Map Turtle can make quite a good pet, even for beginner turtle owners. Although they require a large tank and a specific environment, they aren’t as particular about humidity and temperature as other species of turtle. It’s also possible to keep the Alabama Map Turtle in a community habitat, as it does well with other Map Turtles, as well as Sliders, and Painted Turtles. 


The Alabama Map Turtle can potentially live for 40 to 50 years. However, due to predators, disease, and destruction of habitat, most won’t make it that long. 


The female Alabama Map Turtle has a particularly strong and powerful jaw, which allows her to bite through the shells of mollusks. They adapt to eat whatever food is available, so can live off vegetation if necessary. The Alabama Map Turtle is able to store food, to keep them going through cold winter months.

Breeding Season

The breeding season for the Alabama Map Turtle is late summer through early fall. Females will often store sperm, as they’re only ready to mate for a small period of the year.


How many eggs and how often they lay is generally determined by the size and health of the female. An Alabama Map Turtle might have 29 eggs per season. This will come in clutches of 6 or 7, that they lay 4 to 7 times per season.

Nests are made 1 to 20 meters from the water’s edge, in a warm sandbar. The eggs then spend 74 to 79 days incubating. It isn’t unusual for an entire clutch to be infertile. The nests aren’t very well covered, making them particularly vulnerable to prey.

Growth Rate

As a juvenile, an Alabama Map Turtle will grow rapidly. However, as they begin to reach maturity, this will taper off. A male reaches sexual maturity at 3 or 4, and will slowly grow to roughly 4 inches. A female may not be fully grown until she is 23.

Life Cycle

There isn’t a great deal known about the life cycle of the Alabama Map Turtle. They grow rapidly as a juvenile, and then it slows down drastically. The male is sexually mature at 3 or 4 years old. However, the female doesn’t reach sexual maturity until 14, and won’t stop growing until she is 23.

Once hatched, a juvenile will care for itself. The Alabama Map Turtle is quite shy, and will jump into the water when it feels even slightly threatened. They spend their days basking in the sunlight.


Not much is known about the population of the Alabama Map Turtle, but they are listed as threatened. Human development, particularly polluted water, is having a noticeable effect on the population.


An Alabama Map Turtle requires a meaty diet, although they will eat vegetation if it’s all that’s available. The diet of the Alabama Map Turtle consists of mollusks, insects, vegetation, and carrion.

Females have large and powerful jaws, which they use to crunch their way through the shells of mollusks. Males and juveniles, on the other hand, eat more insects. A male may also supplement their diet with tadpoles, crawfish, small fish, and worms. 


Without much in the way of defenses, the Alabama Map Turtle is vulnerable to predators. Its primary defense is to jump in the water, which it will do when disturbed.

A major predator of the Alabama Map Turtle is the alligator snapping turtle. Nests are incredibly vulnerable, because they aren’t very well hidden in the sand. Raccoons, crows, and other birds will try to snatch the eggs.

Roaming Range

The Alabama Map Turtle got its name as it’s endemic to the Mobile Bay drainage basin in Alabama. It can also be Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and possibly Louisiana. Within its range, the Alabama Map Turtle doesn’t move about much. It much prefers to spend the day basking in the sunshine. They aren’t particularly territorial, but also don’t form social groups.


The Alabama Map Turtle can be susceptible to intestinal parasites. Wild Alabama Map Turtles are also at risk from polluted waters, which can infect the food supply and cause sickness. Turtles need a good amount of calcium and vitamins, or the bones and shell can become weak.

Eye Color

The eye color of the Alabama Map Turtle is a yellow/brown shade. They also have an unusual olive green patterning around the eye, that gives the appearance of a mask in some cases. 


The Alabama Map Turtle don’t appear to hibernate as a species. As they live in the southern parts of the United States, the warmer winter weather reduces the need for a period of hibernation.

However, they do react to a dropping in temperature. As the water cools down and predators die, the Alabama Map Turtle will move slower. It also begins to store food from September, and can stop eating entirely after October.

Can they swim?

Alabama Map Turtles are fantastic swimmers, and they spend a lot of their day in the water. The larger females like to go deep, and will often dive for food. The male Alabama Map Turtles are smaller, and tend to stick to shallow areas.

Between dives into the water, the Alabama Map Turtle will move on to warm rocks, to bask in the sunlight. If something disturbs them, they’ll dive straight back into the water.


When caring for an Alabama Map Turtle, the most important factor is creating an enclosure to fit their needs. Although they might not be large, a lot of space is still necessary to keep them active and healthy. Females especially will need a deep tank, so they can dive, although males won’t need as much water.

It’s also vitally important that there’s space to bask. Fine substrate, and plenty of vegetation, are necessary to create an enjoyable habitat. Heat lamps and UVB lights are required, although sunlight is best. Their diet should consist of lots of meaty mollusks, insects, and some vegetation. They can do well in shared tanks, but it’s important to introduce new friends slowly.


An Alabama Map Turtle can potentially cost several hundred dollars. It’s also important to buy a large tank, which can be pricey. Alabama Map Turtles can be hard to buy, because sales are restricted in some states. It’s better to purchase a captive bred Map Turtle, rather than a wild caught one.

Those from the wild are often stressed by the change in environment, and can carry disease. A captive bred turtle will be happier in its new home. 

Fun Facts

  • The nickname of the Alabama Map Turtle is the Alabama Sawback. This is in reference to the unusual protruding knobs on the back of the shell, which do give the appearance of a saw. These are prominent on the young, but tend to wear down with time.
  • The Alabama Map Turtle absolutely loves to sunbathe. They spend most of their day basking in the hot sunshine. The heat helps dry them out, so the skin can shed properly, reducing the risk of parasites.