About species and habitats

Mauremys rivulata

About the species

The Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) is one of the two autochthonous species of freshwater turtles in Croatia. The Balkan Terrapin has a characteristic appearance and it is very difficult to confuse it with any other type of turtle that lives in Croatia. It is characterized by a hydrodynamic flattened and oval elongated shell, which is why it is popularly known as the flat turtle. Newly hatched young have long tails and a round shell shape that lengthens as they grow. The basic color of the dorsal side of the armor (carapace) is olive green with shades of black and brown, while the ventral side of the armor (plastron) is black with light outer edges of the plates. The color of the ventral side in older specimens often fades, while young specimens have more colorful armor. The Balkan Terrapin is medium-sized, with a shell length between 14 and 21 cm. As with most aquatic turtles, females are larger and heavier than males. In addition to the flattened shell, the Balkan Terrapin is also characterized by longitudinal pale yellow lines that run along the olive green neck and limbs.

Geographic distribution

The range of the Balkan Terrapin extends from Western Asia all the way to the countries of the Balkan Peninsula. It is widespread in southern Bulgaria, southeastern Macedonia, Greece and on many Aegean and Ionian islands (Ionian Peninsula, Limnos, Lesbos, Paros, Sifnos, Rhodes, Corfu, Milos, Tinos, Crete). It also comes to Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro and Croatia. In addition to the Balkans, we also find it in the Mediterranean area of European and Asian Turkey, in coastal Syria, Lebanon, all of Jordan, and northern and central Israel and Palestine, including the Gaza Strip.

In Croatia, the Balkan Terrapin is distributed only in the extreme south of Dalmatia, which represents the western edge of its distribution area. So far, four geographically isolated populations are known that inhabit ponds in Prljevići and Majkovi, then in Konavosko polje, Stonsko polje and the Ombla area.


The Balkan Terrapin is mostly a lowland species, although it also inhabits areas up to 900 m above sea level. It lives in calmer waters with mud and vegetation and usually does not inhabit fast river flows. It inhabits streams, irrigation canals, still rivers, springs, ponds, lakes and swamps. Although they spend their time almost exclusively in the water, it is essential for these aquatic reptiles to spend part of their time sunbathing on dry land to prevent algal fouling and carapace necrosis. They sunbathe most often at the very edge of the water where they live, on a stone or a floating branch in their aquatic habitat. In addition to water habitats, terrestrial habitats, where they lay their eggs are also important for the survival of the species.

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