Diamondback Terrapin

The adult diamondback terrapin nests on sandy borders of coastal salt marshes or in dunes from June to July. Its maximum egg-laying activity occurs at high tide and ensures that the eggs will be laid above the high water level. The female digs holes 4 to 8 in (10–20 cm) deep, depositing between 4 and 15 pinkish white eggs. The eggs hatch in 9 to 15 weeks. Occasionally after hatching, the young may remain in the nest for the first winter, emerging in April and May to head for ocean waters. This nesting instinct was given to this creature by its Creator.


  • The diamondback terrapin’s shell is ornately patterned, usually in shades of black, brown, or gray, and its body is gray, brown, yellow, or white with dark spots or streaks.
  • Its skull has a bony arch, and its upper lip is white.
  • The diamondback terrapin gets its name from the diamond-shapes on its shell.

Fun Facts

  • Each terrapin has a unique pattern of black spots and markings on its skin.
  • The excess salt that a terrapin consumes in its diet is excreted through special glands near its eyes.
  • Mature females can be almost twice the size of mature males.
  • This species spends most of its time in the water.

CLASS: Reptilia (reptiles)
ORDER: Testudines (tortoises and turtles)
FAMILY: Emydidae (box and pond turtles)
GENUS/SPECIES: Malaclemys terrapin

Size: Male 5 in (13 cm); female 7.5 in (19 cm)
Diet: Crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and insects
Habitat: Coastal swamps of eastern and southern United States