Saturday, June 23, 2018

My Cousin: The Rio Grande Cooter

I envy the carapace (shell) of the Rio Grande Cooter which is a colorful oval and elongated, flattened, with a slight keel (highest in middle). This fella has tooth-like cusps and webbed feet. Males have longer fingernails on forelimbs than females. The carapace is olive with blotches of alternating yellow and black. Scutes have four distinct bulls-eyes with black and yellow rings. His belly (plastron) is yellow with pigment along seams, which fade with age.

Skin is brown or olive with yellow stripes on neck, legs and tail. Wide yellow stripe down middle of head and neck. Carapace reaches lengths of approx 9.5 inches as adults (females larger than males).

Found along the Rio Grande and Pecos River drainages in Texas and southern New Mexico. Isolated populations have been found in several northern states in Mexico. The Rio Grande cooter is found in clear pools in New Mexico, but can be found in clear to muddy streams in Texas.

Not much is known about the diet of this species, but preliminary results indicate that it may be primarily a vegetarian. Sadly, the Rio Grande cooter is not a protected species in Texas and can be legally collected with a hunting license.