Rhinoclemmys annulata

(Gray, 1860b)
Brown wood turtle

This is a medium-sized (to 20 cm), brown to black, terrestrial turtle with a medially flattened carapace. The high carapace is flattened across the vertebrals, but still has a low, blunt vertebral keel. It is roughened owing to growth annuli on the scutes, posteriorly serrated, and usually broadest and highest just behind the middle. Carapacial coloration and patterns are extremely variable, ranging from totally black to dark brown with orange pleural and vertebral blotches to tan with yellow blotches on the pleurals and vertebrals. Pleural blotches are often radiations from the dorso-posterior corner; the vertebral keel is usually yellow. This variation is similar to that occurring in the eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina carolina, of North America, and provides good concealment among dried leaves and vegetation on the forest floor. The plastron is well-developed, upturned anteriorly and notched posteriorly. Its scute formula is: abd > pect > fem > an > hum > gul, and it is black to dark brown with a yellow border and, in some, a yellow midseam. The bridge is black or dark brown. The head is small with a slightly projecting snout and slightly hooked upper jaw which is also laterally serrated. A wide yellow or red stripe may extend from the orbit at a slight angle to the nape, but some individuals lack this stripe. Another stripe runs from the lower posterior orbit to the tympanum where it meets a similar stripe from the upper jaw. There is also a stripe from the upper anterior orbit to the tip of the snout. Forelimbs have large yellowish scales with dark stripes of wide black spots. The toes are not webbed.
Males have concave plastra and longer, thicker tails with the vent beyond the carapacial margins. Females have flat plastra and shorter tails.

Rhinoclemmys annulata ranges from eastern Honduras southward through eastern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama to western Colombia and Ecuador.

Geographic Variation
Rhinoclemmys annulata shows much variation in color and patterns in all populations.

Rhinoclemmys annulata is principally a diurnal, terrestrial, lowland rainforest resident, but it also follows gallery forests onto the highlands to over 1500 m.

Natural History
Courtship has not been fully described, but the male often salivates on the female's head. There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the female digs a nest cavity or just hides the eggs under leaf litter. Egg laying apparently occurs throughout the year with a clutch consisting of only one or two ellipsoidal eggs (70 x 37 mm). The hatchling is about 63 mm in carapace length.
Rhinoclemmys annulata is herbivorous, feeding on ferns, shrubs, and various seedlings. Fruits such as bananas and papaya are also relished. Most activity occurs in the morning. It is also quite active immediately after heavy rains, and then can be found marching along paths and roads. When not active, it scoops out a dorm in fallen leaves, or retreats beneath tangled vines or root masses. During hot, dry spells it often enters pools of water to cool off.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Lower risk: near threatened.