"Temporary Ponds: a natural habitat to be protected!"


> European pond turtle

Emys orbicularis

This turtle has a slightly vaulted carapace, with 15-17cm of length, and a dark brown colour with a radiated and striated yellow pattern. The plastron (ventral part of the carapace) is also generally dark with some big yellow spots. The Iberian and North-African population belongs to the subspecies European pond turtle, whose head pattern is yellow and vermiform over a dark background. Males are distinguished from females by the concavity of the plastron and also due to its peculiar greater distance from the cloaca.

Behaviour and reproduction:

The courtship begins as soon as possible in the spring, and goes on until May in Southern Portugal. The incubation of the eggs deposited in a sandy soil occurs during summer, and therefore the newly hatched juveniles appear at the end of summer.

It may occupy any kind of water mass, but it always prefers those with scarce flow or none at all, and with an abundant vegetation, both aquatic and on the margins. In the Southwest it is found in the temporary ponds.


In the Iberian Peninsula the specie is geographically distributed in a rather disperse and fragmented manner, being generally uncommon or even rare. It is, however, in the temporary ponds of the southwest region of Alentejo that one finds the most abundant populations in Portugal.

This turtle avoids areas with human activity, being a dodged species. The Iberian populations of the Mediterranean area, because they occupy stationary aquatic environments, have suffered a greater regression due to the droughts and the excessive extraction of water for agricultural use.

Meanwhile, the populations of the temporary ponds systems of southwester Alentejo may be seriously threatened by recent agricultural intensification.

It presents the conservation status "endangered" (Cabral et al., 2005) in the Vertebrates Red Book of Portugal and is legally protected by Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC (Annex II and IV).

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