Cuora aurocapitata

Luo and Zong, 1988
Golden-headed box turtle

The elongated carapace (to 15.6 cm) is low arched, widest behind the middle at the level of the 8th marginals, and highest at the 2nd vertebral. Its marginals are flared and there is a slight posterior notch. A low, rounded medial keel is present. The 1st vertebral scute is flared anteriorly and is the largest; other vertebrals are wider than long, and the 5th is also flared. The cervical scute is long and narrow. In adult males, marginals 8-11 (especially 9-10) are flared (Ron de Bruin, pers. comm.). The carapace is dark brown, with lighter chestnut to red brown along the vertebrals. The well-developed plastron is yellow with black triangular marks along the seams. A black bar crosses each bridge, and the undersides of the marginals are yellow except at the bridge where their rims are black. The plastral hindlobe is posteriorly notched and broad enough to cover most of the hindlimbs when they are retracted. The plastral formula of the few we have examined was: pect >< an > abd > gul > fem > hum; the anal scutes are separated by a seam. The head is narrow and pointed; its snout is not or only slightly projected, and the upper jaw is slightly hooked. Smooth skin covers the dorsal surface of the head, and the iris is greenish yellow. The head is lemon yellow with a narrow brown stripe extending backward from the eye to the neck. Jaws are also yellow. The top and sides of the relatively long neck are brown and covered with roughened scales; the chin and ventral surface are yellow. The outer surface of the unpatterned limbs is olive gray to brown; the sockets beneath are yellow to orange. The anterior surface of each forelimb has large horizontal scales; the hindlimbs are covered with small scales, and enlarged scales occur along the heel. The tail is yellow with brown dorsal stripes.
Males have a narrower and more elongated head, a more pronounced cusp on the upper jaw, a flatter, more oval shell, a slightly concave plastron, and a longer and thicker tail with the vent beyond the carapacial rim (Ron de Bruin, pers. comm.).

Nanling Country, Anhui, China.

Natural History
Reproductive activity has been observed in captivity (De Bruin and Zwartepoorte, 1994). Courtship occurred throughout the year; the smaller male was very aggressive towards the larger female, chasing her and biting her limbs, head and shell. The male approached the female from the rear and mounted. He then extended his neck and head, and bit the female's neck, causing her to pull it under her shell and making her cloacal vent more accessible. The male moved backward and down on her carapace until he could bring his tail into position to insert his penis into her vent. He then released his legs from her carapace and leaned backwards (much in the manner of male Terrapene while copulating).
Hard-shelled, oval (39-42 x 21-24 mm) eggs were laid in July and August. The eggs were incubated at 28°C and began to hatch in 66 days. Hatchling plastrons were 31-34 mm.
Captives kept by Ernst ate bananas, strawberries, apples, tomatoes, shrimp, crickets, earthworms, canned dog and cat food, and fish. Males are aggressive toward other turtles, and occasionally so are females. Male aggression consists of chasing other turtles and biting their head, limbs and shell.

This species was discussed by Ernst and Barbour (1989) as C. pani Song, 1984.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Data deficient.