(Duméril and Bibron, in Duméril and Duméril, 1851)
Furrowed wood turtle
This semi-terrestrial turtle is medium sized (to 20 cm) with a high, ovoid carapace which is wider posteriorly than anteriorly, medially keeled, slightly serrated posteriorly, and has flared or laterally upturned marginals. Its surface is smooth in older individuals but rugose in the young. The carapace is usually olive with dark seams and much yellow mottling forming a lichenlike pattern, but may be tan to black. Each pleural has a small yellow or red, often dark-bordered, central spot which disappears with age. The plastron is well-developed, slightly upturned anteriorly, notched posteriorly, and has a scute formula of abd > pect > fem > an > gul > hum. It is yellow with a dark central blotch and dark seams. The bridge is yellow. The head is small and has a slightly projecting snout and a notched upper jaw. A yellow or red stripe runs posteriorly from the orbit to the side of the neck, two elongate red or yellow spots lie on the nape, and another stripe runs between the orbit and tympanum. Each eyelid has a light vertical bar, and a light stripe may run from the snout posteriorly along the upper jaw to the tympanum. Lower jaws and chin have black spots or ocelli. The feet are slightly webbed and the forelimbs are covered with large, yellow, black-spotted scales.
Males have concave plastra and slightly longer tails with the vent beyond the carapacial margin; females have flat plastra and tails with the vent beneath the carapace.
Rhinoclemmys areolata occurs from southern Veracruz, Tabasco, and eastern Chiapas to Yucatán and Cozumel Island in Mexico, southward through Belize, Guatemala and northwestern Honduras. There is a questionable record from eastern Honduras.
No subspecies have been described, but Ernst (1978) reported that Rhinoclemmys areolata from Cozumel Island, Mexico, are quite divergent in several characters from mainland populations. Furthermore, Perez-Higareda and Smith (1987) reported that three distinct populations exist that differ in color pattern and behavior. Furrowed wood turtles from western Tabasco and adjacent Veracruz are mostly aquatic, and among others have an unspotted throat, hindlegs that dorsally are uniformly dark and unspotted ventrally, a poorly developed keel, and an olive-gray carapace. The population occurring in south-central Veracruz is distinguished by its savannah-dwelling habits, a dark-spotted throat, hindlegs that are lighter and dorsally and ventrally covered with black spots, a well-developed keel, and a brown carapace. The specimens from Cozumel and Quintana Roo have a gray carapace, and an unspotted throat; other characters agree with that of the population of south-central Veracruz.
Rhinoclemmys areolata is generally a savannah inhabitant, but will enter adjacent dense woodlands. It also enters marshy areas, as evidenced by specimens collected with algae-covered carapaces.
The elongated eggs are tapered like those of a bird, have brittle shells, and measure about 60 x 31 mm. During egg laying, the carapaceandplastron become flexible at the posterior margins allowing the eggs to pass through. At hatching, the young are about 52-55 mm in carapace length.
Platt (1993) reported that the faecal matter of Belize R. areolata contained small stones, a large amounts of grass and fibrous parts of plants, fruits (probably Cercropia), elytra of beetles, chitinous remains of unidentified insects, and a large number of eggshell fragments (possibly of Trachemys scripta venusta). He also saw one foraging in flooded leaf litter.
IUCN Red List Status (1996)