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Graptemys pearlensis, 094

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Graptemys pearlensis Ennen, Lovich, Kreiser, Selman, and Qualls 2010 –
Pearl River Map Turtle

Joshua R. Ennen1, Jeffrey E. Lovich2, and Robert L. Jones3

1Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute,
201 Chestnut Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402 USA [[email protected]];

2Southwest Biological Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey,
2255 North Gemini Drive, Flagstaff, Arizona 86001 USA [[email protected]];

3Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, Museum of Natural Science,
2148 Riverside Drive, Jackson, Mississippi 39202 USA [[email protected]]


Summary. – The Pearl River Map Turtle, Graptemys pearlensis (Family Emydidae), is a moderate-sized aquatic turtle endemic to the Pearl River drainage of Louisiana and Mississippi. This taxon has long been a cryptic species, as it was considered part of G. pulchra before 1992 and part of G. gibbonsi until 2010. Graptemys pearlensis exhibits sexual dimorphism, with adult females being considerably larger (carapace length to 295 mm) than adult males (CL to 121 mm). In the 1960s and 1970s, the species was commonly found in higher abundance than the sympatric G. oculifera, a federally listed species. However, due to habitat degradation and the precipitous decline of native mollusks, the species is now found in lower numbers than G. oculifera throughout much of its range. The current IUCN Red List status is Endangered; however, very little is known about the natural history and ecology of the species, which will make conservation efforts challenging.

Distribution. – USA. Restricted to the Pearl River drainage of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Synonymy.Graptemys pearlensis Ennen, Lovich, Kreiser, Selman, and Qualls 2010.

Subspecies. – None recognized.

Status. IUCN 2015 Red List: Endangered (EN A1bcde+4bcde; assessed 2013); CITES: Appendix III (USA; as Graptemys spp.); US ESA: Not Listed.


Ennen, J.R., Lovich, J.E., and Jones, R.L. 2016. Graptemys pearlensis Ennen, Lovich, Kreiser, Selman, and Qualls 2010 – Pearl River Map Turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs 5(9):094.1–8, doi:10.3854/crm.5.094.pearlensis.v1.2016, //iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/.

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Adult male Graptemys pearlensis from the Tennessee Aquarium collection.
The unbroken black stripe on the median dorsal keel of G. pearlensis is a distinguishing characteristic.
Photo by Joshua Ennen.



Distribution of Graptemys pearlensis in the Pearl River drainage of Louisiana and Mississippi, USA. Purple lines = boundaries delimiting major watersheds (level 3 hydrologic unit compartments – HUCs); red dots = museum and literature occurrence records based on Iverson (1992) plus more recent data provided by Will Selman; green shading = projected distribution based on GIS-defined level 10 HUCs constructed around verified localities and then adding HUCs that connect known point localities in the same watershed or physiographic region, and similar habitats and elevations as verified HUCs (Buhlmann et al. 2009; TTWG 2014), and adjusted based on Selman’s data.