Genome: Chrysemys picta bellii

Painted Turtle, Credit: H. Bradley Shaffer

Other Vertebrates
Non-Mammalian Vertebrate
Scientific Name
Chrysemys picta bellii
Common Name
Western Painted Turtle


The maximum shell length for painted turtles is 25 cm (10 in). Its shell protects against predators. The skin of an adult Western Painted Turtle's head, neck, feet and tail, and the carapace-edge (marginal) scutes have a red and yellow striped design that gives it a hand-painted appearance.

During the winter, painted turtles hibernate, or ‘brumate,’ by burying themselves deep in the mud beneath streams and ponds. The mud insulates the turtle, which helps prevent freezing during the harsh winter months. Painted turtles can survive without oxygen at 3 degrees Celsius (37°F) for up to five months, longer than any other known air-breathing vertebrate.

To survive during hibernation, the turtle must prevent lactic acid from building up in its body. It does this by slowing its metabolic rate, which in turn lowers the rate of lactic acid production. It also uses magnesium and calcium stored in its shell to buffer and neutralize the lactic acid. Northern populations of painted turtles may remain dormant for four to six months. More southerly populations may become active during warm periods. When emerging from a dormant period, most turtles will not begin to eat again until the water temperature has reached approximately 16°C (60°F). The Western Painted Turtle is the most cold-tolerant species of turtle known and ranges further north than any turtle in North America. Cold tolerance, specifically, freezing of hatchlings has been well-documented.

--Excerpts taken from Wikipedia.


The Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) is a reptile common to southern Canada, the United States and northern Mexico. This turtle lives in ponds, lakes, marshes and in slow-moving rivers that have soft, muddy bottoms. There are four subspecies: the Eastern, Southern, Midland, and Western Painted Turtle. The Western Painted Turtle lives exclusively in North America and is the official reptile of Colorado. Painted turtles are the most widespread turtle in North America. They are most active from May to October in the northeastern United States. Instances of local flooding following heavy rainfall in warm months will sometimes force these turtles to temporarily take to the land for a day or two, migrating between habitats.

The painted turtle spends the majority of its time in the water, but it can often be seen lying in the sun or ‘basking’ on floating logs or on rocks by the shore. They bask because they cannot generate heat or regulate their own body temperature. Instead, they rely on heat from the sun to raise and maintain their body temperature at a level high enough to digest food efficiently (a minimum of about 65°F). Painted turtles are omnivorous and their diets include insects, worms, tadpoles, small fish and aquatic vegetation. Like almost all semi-aquatic turtles, painted turtles cannot and will not ingest food unless their mouths are fully underwater.

--Excerpts taken from Wikipedia.

Sequencing Plan

The Chysemys picta bellii genome will be sequenced at Washington University, and the planned approach will combine all whole genome shotgun of Roche 454 paired end reads, and BAC end sequences to achieve a total of 15X whole genome coverage. The BAC library was constructed at the Benaroya Research Institute Amemiya Lab (BAC Library VMRC CHY3; J. Froula JGI/C. Amemiya Lab Female; Strain MVZ #238119; Locality: WA: Grant Co: small lake 1.3 miles south of potholes reservoir). The Painted Turtle DNA source originated from a field collected specimen (UCLA Shaffer lab: Field number: RCT428Locality: WA: Grant Co: small lake 1.3 miles south of Potholes Reservoir).

This preliminary sequence assembly will be released to the public, following an internal quality review. Funding for the sequence characterization of the Western Painted Turtle genome is being provided by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH).


None found.

Data Links

Species Name Data Type
Chrysemys picta NCBI Genome Page Link
Chrysemys picta NCBI BioProject ID Link