You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Diamondback Terrapin

Diamondback terrapin

Malaclemys terrapin

Today's Research for Tomorrow's Oceans

Come visit me at Mote!

Anna Maria Education Outreach Center

Mote Aquarium on City Island

Support Mote Animals

Fun Facts

Terrapins can swim in both fresh and saltwater.

There are seven subspecies of diamondback terrapins.

They have strong jaws for crushing they shells of their prey. 

Species Type:


Common Name(s):

Diamondback terrapin


Diamondback terrapins vary in size depending on their sex. Females tend to be larger averaging at about 11 inches (28 meters) long, while males only grow to about 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) long. While their bodies are bigger, females have shorter tails than their male counterparts (National Aquarium). Terrapins weigh in anywhere from 300-500 grams (10.6-17.6 ounces).


Terrapins stick to an almost entirely carnivorous diet eating critters such as aquatic snails, crabs, oysters, scallops, muscles, carrion, fish, worms, and insects. On a rare occasion, they'll enjoy a plant snack (National Aquarium).

Range & Habitat:

Diamondback terrapins live in warm, saltwater environments along the Atlantic and Golf Coasts. Finding shelter in salt marshes and thick mangroves, terrapins like to sunbathe near estuaries, creeks, and other shallow brackish waterways. North America is the only continent terrapins live on (National Aquarium).


Diamondback terrapins are strong swimmers thanks to their muscular legs and webbed toes. Living in dynamic tidal environments, these adaptations are crucial to their livelihood. Terrapins will secrete excess salt through tear duct glands to remove high concentrations of sodium chloride. This unique adaptation allows these turtles to swim in waters with varying salinities, meaning they can live in fresh and saltwater environments. Burying themselves at the bottom of creeks or other small bodies of water, terrapins can keep themselves warm during the colder parts of the year. When the temperature in the atmosphere increases, the turtles come out to breed, laying anywhere from 4-23 eggs per clutch (National Aquarium). Diamondback terrapins are listed as a Vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Staff Who Work with This Species:

Mote Animals: