NatureMapping Animal Facts

Painted Turtle vs Red-eared Slider

Learn how to identify the different species.


Western Painted Turtle
(Chrysemys picta)


Red-eared Slider
(Trachemys scripta elegans)

raven vs crow tail feathers
Interesting Fact: Red-eared sliders get their name from the distinctive red mark around their ear. The "slider" part of their name comes from their ability to slide off rocks and logs and into the water quickly. (Photo by Alan Wilson. Courtesy of Nature's Pic's.)

What is the difference between a Painted Turtle and a Red-eared Slider?

The Western Painted Turtle co-occurs with the introduced Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) in many areas of its range and may be confused with this species. Both species are similar in size and carapace colouration. However, the carapace of the Red-eared Slider is higher domed than that of the Western Painted Turtle and is weakly keeled. (see photos)

Characteristics that most obviously distinguish the Slider include yellow marginal scutes, a yellow plastron covered in dark, blotchy markings, and a red ear mark located just behind the eye (although this ear mark is not always visible in older specimens). Like the Western Painted Turtle, male Sliders are smaller than females, and have long claws on the forefeet that are used during courtship (Bunnell 2005). source: Kilburn, 2010

raven photo by Lantz
Western Painted Turtle (native)
crow photo by Natures Pics
Red-eared Slider (introduced)

Compare the photos of the two species. Can you tell the difference between the turtles?

Range and Habitats:
distribution map

Distribution of Painted Turtles

distribution map

Distribution of Pond Sliders

Compare the distributiom maps of the two species. What do you notice?

Click on the range map for more information on the distribution of turtles in Washington.


carapace - a turtle's top shell

keel - a raised ridge along the middle (front to back) of the carapace of some turtles

plastron - a turtle's bottom shell

scute - the large, separate scales on the carapace and plastron of most turtles


Painted Turtle

Red-eared Slider

More information:

Painted Turtle - Wikipedia

Red-eared Slider - Wikipedia


Kilburn, V. Recovery Strategy for Western Pond Turtle (draft).

Photos: Vanessa Kilburn; Tim Knight; Natures Pics

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