box turtle, hard-shelled land turtle of the genus Terrapene, native to North America. Its lower shell, or plastron, has a hinge dividing it into front and rear sections; the animal can raise these sections to meet the upper shell, or carapace, forming a secure box around its body. It is primarily a vegetarian, although it also eats insects, earthworms, and slugs. The box turtle hibernates during cold winters and mates in the spring. In summer the female buries from two to seven eggs, which hatch out in the early fall. The young often remain in the nest until the following spring. The Eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina, is a woodland species found in the eastern and central United States. The Western species, T. ornata, is found in the grasslands of the central United States and northern Mexico. There are also several rare Mexican species. Box turtles are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, order Chelonia, family Emydidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.