Black wood turtle
This large (to 32.5 cm), dark, freshwater turtle has a spotted lower jaw and chin. The adult carapace is high, somewhat domed, medially keeled, posteriorly serrated, and usually widest and highest just behind the middle. Its surface is smooth to rugose (due to retention of growth annuli), and it is dark brown to black (some yellow occurs on the juvenile pleurals). The plastron is well-developed, upturned anteriorly, and notched posteriorly. The plastral formula is: abd > pect > gul > an > hum. The plastron is black with yellow seam borders and a wide yellow midseam, and the bridge is black to dark brown with yellow seams. The head is of moderate size with a slightly projecting snout and notched upper jaw. It is black with a wide lateral yellow stripe above the tympanum. Two narrower yellow stripes run from the orbit and the corner of the mouth to the tympanum, and there are large black spots on the yellow lower jaw and chin. Skin of the neck and limbs is black with yellow vermiculations. The feet are strongly webbed.
Adult males have concave plastra and longer, thicker tails with the vent posterior to the carapacial margin; adult females have flat plastra and shorter tails with the vent beneath the carapace.
Rhinoclemmys funerea inhabits the Caribbean drainages of Central America from the Rio Coco, on the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, southward to the Panama Canal Zone.
The preferred habitats are marshes, swamps, ponds, streams, and rivers in humid forests, where Rhinoclemmys funerea can often be seen basking on partially submerged logs.
Sexual maturity is attained at approximately 20 cm plastron length. Spermatogenesis occurs from April through August and females ovulate from April through July. During courtship, the male chases the female in the water and when she stops, swims to her side, extends his head and neck and rapidly vibrates his head up and down.
Up to four clutches of about three eggs are laid each season. The white, brittle-shelled eggs are ellipsoidal (about 68 x 35 mm); however, one female laid an egg 76 x 39 mm. Hatchlings average about 55 mm in carapace length.
In the wild, Rhinoclemmys funerea is highly herbivorous, feeding on a variety of fruits, grasses and broad-leafed plants; but in captivity, meats are accepted. It often forages on land at night, and consequently is sometimes parasitised by ticks.
IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Lower risk: near threatened.