Emys orbicularis, the European pond turtle, is a member of Emydidae within Cryptodira. Emys orbicularis is the only member of Emydidae that occurs in the Old World, and is also the only turtle to occur throughout most of Europe (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). Emydidae contains the most species of any turtle group, and has an evolutionary record stretching back 80 million years (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). Emydidae is closely related to the Old World pond turtles and tortoises (Geoemydidae and Testudinidae, respectively), but the relationship of these three close relatives to other turtles is unclear (e.g., Gaffney and Meylan, 1988; Joyce, in press).
Emys orbicularis is of medium size, reaching a carapace length of 21 cm (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). The skull is relatively small and exhibits extensive emargination. There is a double articulation between the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae (Ernst and Barbour, 1989). The carapace is oval and somewhat flattened. The plastron is well developed and a hinge is present between the hyo- and hypoplastra. The digits are webbed, and the tail is relatively long. Dorsally, E. orbicularis ranges from olive-brown to black, and exhibits yellow radiations or dots. The plastron ranges from black to yellow, and each scute has a black border. Males have red eyes, while females have yellow eyes (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006).
Emys orbicularis ranges throughout continental Europe, from the Caspian Sea to the Atlantic coast, and occurs in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and its range formerly included the Scandinavian countries and England (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). It prefers slow-moving fresh water bodies with soft bottoms and abundant vegetation. Emys orbicularis is carnivorous, and actively hunts invertebrates, amphibians, and fishes, both in and out of water. Females lay several clutches of three to 16 eggs, and often do not reproduce every year (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). Emys orbicularis is listed by the IUCN as near-threatened.
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Emys orbicularis page from the Lithuanian Fund for Nature