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How do you tell whether a turtle is male or female?
Determining the Gender of a Turtle
A Green turtle hatchling heads to sea in the northwest Hawaiian islands. In most species, gender is determined during fertilization. However, the sex of most turtles , alligators, and crocodiles is determined after fertilization. The temperature of the developing eggs is what decides whether the offspring will be male or female. This is called temperature-dependent sex determination, or TSD.
What causes a sea turtle to be born male or female?
Turtles are bizarre creatures, with morphology unlike any other living animals. With most of a turtle's anatomy hidden betwixt its shell, discerning one's gender is accomplished by examining a combination of size, tail, fingernails and plastron shape. With practice, these clues can be observed at a distance, allowing the identification of even a wild turtle's sex. The easiest way to tell the gender of a red-eared slider Trachemys scripta or painted turtle Chrysemys picta is to look at the animal's fingernails. These species feature female-choice mating systems, in which males vie for the attention of a female.
It is often difficult to determine the gender of a pet turtle, especially if you did not purchase it from a breeder that hatched them from controlled temperature environments. The temperature during egg incubation is what determines whether an embryo will become a male or female; cooler incubation temperatures produce males and females develop in warmer temperatures. Thankfully there are some types of turtles that make it easier than others to distinguish a male from a female without knowing their incubation temperature. Red-eared sliders , for example, demonstrate sexual dimorphism and have distinct differences in size and appearance between the sexes. For male red-eared sliders , sexual maturity is about the time they reach 4 inches in length and at about two to five years old.