Terrapene nelsoni Stejneger 1925 – Spotted Box Turtle, Tortuga de Chispitas, Tortuga de Monte

Date Published or Written


James R. Buskirk, Paulino Ponce-campos

Biology Tags

Common Name

Family Name

Genus and Species


Known from only a handful of localities in the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico, the Spotted Box Turtle, Terrapene nelsoni (Family Emydidae), remains one of the least known chelonian species of North America. Only at the type locality and at one site in Chihuahua have more than four specimens been recorded, most other records consisting of incidental finds or acquisition of solitary specimens. Population density, natural history, and reproductive parameters are thus not understood, and even the favored microhabitat of the species is uncertain. Often the habitat is of difficult access, precipitous, and the turtles themselves seem to have a short activity season, coinciding with the summer monsoon. Most literature on the species is limited to physical description of specimens, on the basis of which two subspecies have been recognized. Based on comparisons of 32 morphological features, the most recent phylogenetic analysis of genus Terra- pene has confirmed the close relationship of T. nelsoni to T. ornata, to which it is parapatric in the northern portion of its range. No threats to the species are currently known, and it is classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List. Monitoring for the possibility of an international pet trade developing would be advisable.