Trachemys decussata

(Gray, 1831b)
North Antillean slider

This slider has an elongated oval carapace (to 39 cm) which is moderately domed, has a medial keel, and is serrated posteriorly. Its scutes bear rugosities in the form of longitudinal or radiating ridges. Vertebral 1 is only slightly elevated and is about as long as broad, vertebrals 2-4 are slightly longer than broad or about as long as broad, and vertebral 5 is much wider posteriorly than long. Ground color varies from brown to greenish or olive brown, and usually there is no pattern except in young individuals. The plastron is notched posteriorly, and the gulars do not contain anterior extensions. The plastral formula is: abd > an > pect > gul > fem > hum. Plastral color is yellow with an extensive, obscure, black seam-following pattern. A series of longitudinal black bars or ocelli occur on the yellow bridge. The head is moderate in size with a bluntly rounded, slightly projecting snout, and a medially notched upper jaw. The head is green to olive brown with yellow stripes. At least two of these stripes run backward along the side of the head from the orbit to the neck, and the dorsalmost expands over the tympanum into a supratemporal stripe. There is usually another stripe below these extending from the corner of the mouth to the neck. Jaws are yellow to tan; neck, limbs, and tail are green with yellow stripes.
Males have elongated foreclaws and long, thick tails; the foreclaws and tail of the female are short. The male carapace is flattened while that of the female is more domed.

Trachemys decussata occurs on the West Indian islands of Cuba and Isla de Pinos; it is possibly introduced on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.

Geographic Variation
Two subspecies are recognized (Seidel, 1988). Trachemys decussata decussata (Gray, 1831b), the common Cuban slider, is restricted to central and eastern Cuba. It has a broad, to oval or elongated, oblong carapace which may be either moderately domed or flattened. Skin of the soft parts is greenish to olive. Its snout is blunt and rounded, and the plastral markings consist of a dark seam-following pattern. Somewhat flattened individuals occur in the Rio Jobabo in Oriente Province; these were named T. d. plana by Barbour and Carr (1940), but are not presently considered a valid subspecies. T. d. angusta (Barbour and Carr, 1940), the Taco River slider, occurs on western Cuba, Isla de Pinos, and the Cayman Islands. Its elongated carapace is moderately domed, and its skin is grayish brown. Like T. d. decussata, it has a bluntly rounded snout and a faded seam-following plastral pattern.

This species is an inhabitant of lowland streams, rivers, swamps, and lakes having relatively permanent water, a soft bottom, and abundant aquatic plants. Seidel (1990) also collected T. decussata from a brackish mangrove swamp.

Natural History
Males stroke the sides of the female's face with their elongated foreclaws during courtship. The nesting season probably extends from April into July and hatchlings are expected to appear in July-September (Seidel, 1990). The 31.0-33.5 mm hatchlings are more brightly colored than adults and their medial keel is more pronounced.
Trachemys decussata is omnivorous, feeding on aquatic plants and invertebrates (Seidel, 1990). In captivity, juveniles will accept fish.
Captives readily bask and wild Trachemys decussata also are observed to sun themselves. Barbour and Carr (1940) reported that in Cuba these sliders leave their ponds as they dry up in summer, and aestivate burrowed beneath leafmold in woods, scrub areas, or tall grass.

T. decussata is another of the species of Trachemys in which the males may become progressively melanistic with age. This has caused much confusion, as these dark individuals were once referred to by the specific name rugosa (Shaw, 1802), along with the males of several other Antillean terrapins.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Not listed.