53 of the Most Colorful Turtles in the World

If you ask people to picture a turtle, chances are that they’ll imagine a green reptile. And while some turtles are green, many come in otherworldly patterns and colors. If you’re like most people, you may not even be aware of the hundreds of bright, unique turtles across the globe.

Here’s our list of the world’s most colorful turtles:

1. Spotted Pond Turtle

Close-up of Spotted Pond Turtle.
  • Latin name: Geoclemys hamiltonii
  • Habitat: Near rivers in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and northeastern India
  • Size: Carapace up to 16″ long
  • Diet: Algae, aquatic plants, snails, worms, and other very small animals
  • Colorful feature: The spotted pond turtle has a dark shell with yellow markings. But the most striking markings are the bright white or whitish-yellow spots on the head and legs.

This remarkable turtle is found throughout the drainage areas of the Ganges and Indus Rivers. Unfortunately, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently classifies it as an endangered species.

2. Ornate Diamondback Terrapin

Ornate Diamondback Terrapin isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Malaclemys terrapin macrospilota
  • Habitat: Tidal, coastal marshes in Florida
  • Size: Carapace up to 9″ long; females are larger than males
  • Diet: Mostly fish and other types of marine animals, though it will occasionally eat algae
  • Colorful feature: This brightly colored species has a shell patterned with black or near-black and yellow. Its pale body forms a stark contrast with the carapace, and the tiny blackish dots add some visual interest.

Florida is known for unique aquatic creatures, and the ornate diamondback terrapin is one. This lovely turtle is a subspecies of the diamondback terrapin. Though its diamond-like carapace patterning is memorable, the ridges on its carapace may be even more so.

3. Box Turtle

A Box Turtle surrounded by vegetation.
  • Latin name: Terrapene carolina
  • Habitat: Terrestrial regions in Mexico and the United States
  • Size: Carapace up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Many types of plants and small animals
  • Colorful feature: Depending on the exact subspecies, the box turtle will have varying amounts of yellow markings. These markings contrast sharply with the dark base color of the shell.

The box turtle’s name comes from its ability to fully encase itself. While it can pull its body into its shell like most turtles, its lower shell has a unique hinge that lets it fold over in order to completely encase the turtle if needed. Unfortunately, due to habitat destruction and other threats, the common box turtle is classified as being vulnerable to extinction.

4. Malayan Snail-Eating Turtle

nail-Eating Turtle on log.
  • Latin name: Malayemis macrophala
  • Habitat: Coastal parts of Myanmar, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand
  • Size: Carapace up to 12″ long
  • Diet: Primarily snails
  • Colorful feature: While not the absolute brightest turtle on the list, the Malayan snail-eating turtle has some truly striking high-contrast markings. Its dark shell is often ringed with bright ivory or white marks, while the dark head is marked with wavy white (or ivory) lines.

Like many turtle species, the Malayan snail-eating turtle likes to stay in areas with water that doesn’t move too quickly. So it should come as no surprise that it can often be found in rice paddies. If you aren’t too familiar with different types of turtles, you might have a hard time telling this one apart from the Southeast Asian box turtle or the black marsh turtle.

5. Narrow-Bridged Musk Turtle

Narrow-Bridged Musk Turtle with mouth open.
  • Latin name: Claudius angustatus
  • Habitat: Near water in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize
  • Size: Carapace length around 6.5″ long
  • Diet: Mostly aquatic plants, invertebrates, insects, and carrion
  • Colorful feature: Like many of the turtles on the list, the narrow-bridged musk turtle has bright yellow markings along the carapace and sometimes on the head.

You might wonder where the “musk” in this turtle’s name comes from. If threatened, the narrow-bridged musk turtle can release a terrible-smelling “musk” that repels predators. This is similar to the defense mechanism used by many different types of snakes.

6. Japanese Pond Turtle

Japanese Pond Turtle isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Mauremys japonica
  • Habitat: Various habitats near water across Japan
  • Size: Carapace is usually between 5″ and 7″ long
  • Diet: Various small aquatic and terrestrial animals, as well as several types of plant matter
  • Colorful feature: As is the case with many turtle species, the Japanese pond turtle can vary a bit in color from individual to individual. As you can see in the picture, some of them have reddish-orange coloring. Usually, the upper part of the body is more orange while the lower part is darker.

Interestingly enough, the Japanese pond turtle is closely related enough to the Chinese stripe-necked turtle, the Chinese pond turtle, and the Chinese box turtle that it can hybridize with them in captivity. But if you do have any of those three species, it’s best to avoid hybridization. The Chinese turtles are very rare, so if you can increase their numbers in captivity, it’s wise to do so.

7. Four-Eyed Turtle

Close-up of Four-Eyed Turtle.
  • Latin name: Sacalia quadriocellata
  • Habitat: Near water in southern China, Hainan, and some mountainous regions in Laos and Vietnam
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Many different types of smaller animals and several types of plant matter
  • Colorful feature: This turtle’s most striking feature comes in the form of eye-like spots on the back of the neck. The spots are usually a striking yellow, green, or a combination of the two.

Like a few of the spectacular turtles on the list, this one faces severe threats to its habitat. As a result, it is a critically endangered species. Unfortunately, one of the major threats to its already-dwindling population is the collection and sale of its shells. One of the main uses of the shells is Chinese traditional medicine, where the shells are dried and ground.

8. Vietnamese Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle

Vietnamese Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle on branch.
  • Latin name: Geoemyda spengleri
  • Habitat: Near water in Laos, China, and Vietnam
  • Size: Carapace usually around 4.3″
  • Diet: Mostly smaller invertebrates and fruit
  • Colorful feature: This turtle’s back is an intense, rich brown. But its shell really stands out thanks to its serrated-looking edges that look like those of a dead leaf. And as you can see on the turtle in the picture, it may sometimes have reddish markings on the face and neck.

This tiny turtle is one of the more unusual creatures on the list. It unfortunately is classified as an endangered species. However, in some zoos across the world, it has been the subject of captive breeding programs in order to boost its numbers. It can sometimes be kept as a pet, although it is not one of the more commonly kept reptiles.

9. Yellow-Spotted River Turtle

Closee-up of Yellow-Spotted River Turtle.
  • Latin name: Podocnemis unifilis
  • Habitat: Mostly near rivers and lakes in and close to the Orinoco and Amazon basins
  • Size: Up to about 18″ long
  • Diet: Fish, smaller invertebrates, fruits, and weeds
  • Colorful feature: The base color of these turtles is somewhat unremarkable. But true to the name, their heads and necks are spotted in pale to bright yellow. Juvenile turtles often have a base color that is more green.

The yellow-spotted river turtle is one of the many species of “sideneck turtle” on the list. You might think that a sideneck turtle is one whose neck reaches out the side of the carapace or something similar. However, it simply refers to the way the neck is retracted back into the carapace. Many of us are familiar with the turtles who pull their necks directly backward into their shells. Instead of doing this, sideneck turtles turn their head and neck to the side when bringing it back into the shell.

10. Big-Headed Turtle

Big-Headed Turtle on white background.
  • Latin name: Platysternon megacephalum
  • Habitat: Typically near water in Southeast Asia and southern China
  • Size: Carapace up to about 15″ long
  • Diet: Mostly snails, worms, and fish
  • Colorful feature: Though individuals in the wild are often muddy, the turtle in the picture shows you that big-headed turtles are often colorful! The underbelly is orangish to salmon-colored, while the shell itself is an eye-catching medium green.

Unfortunately, these cute yet unusual-looking turtles are one of the species on the list that are considered to be critically endangered. In Asia, they are commonly captured and used for food. They also are often used in the pet trade. Oddly enough, unlike most other turtle species, big-headed turtles are not strong swimmers.

11. Twist-Necked Turtle

Close-up of Twist-Necked Turtle isolated against black background.
  • Latin name: Platemys platycephala
  • Habitat: Usually in and around shallow creek beds throughout northern South America
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 7″ long
  • Diet: Mostly the eggs of amphibians, insects, snails, and various types of plant matter
  • Colorful feature: Like many turtles, the twist-necked turtle has a dark-topped shell. However, the top of its head ranges from yellow to approximately the color of a toasted marshmallow. As you can see in the picture, various parts of the shell are often yellow as well.

Several types of turtles on the list have been named based on their necks. The twist-necked turtle is a bit like sidenecked turtle species. When it is threatened, it twists its neck as it retracts it into the shell. This turtle has a highly distinctive appearance, as it has a flattened shell as well as a head that looks flattened.

12. Black Spine-Necked Swamp Turtle

Black Spine-Necked Swamp Turtle isolated on black background.
  • Latin name: Acanthochelys spixii
  • Habitat: Usually close to water across much of South America
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Largely snails, amphibians, and various plants
  • Colorful feature: As the name suggests, this turtle is largely black. However, its throat and the edges of its shell have distinctive orangish-red markings. Some turtles (like the one in the picture) are brighter than others.

This unusual-looking turtle is aptly named. If the neck is not extended, you might wonder why it’s called a spine-necked turtle. But when the neck is fully extended, you can see a set of black spikes reaching upward. Though it is fairly widespread in much of South America, this turtle is classified as being near threatened.

13. Italian Pond Turtle

Italian Pond Turtle on rock.
  • Latin name: Emys orbicularis galloitalica
  • Habitat: Near freshwater in Italy
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 15″ long
  • Diet: Usually a wide variety of both plants and small animals
  • Colorful feature: This striking freshwater turtle is one of the many on the list with a striking yellow and black pattern. As you can see in the picture, the body has a black base color with irregular yellow spots. Some individual turtles have more yellow than others.

This colorful creature is one of the 14 subspecies of the European pond turtle. It is one of the longest-lived species on the list, as it generally lives between 40 and 60 years in the wild. Some especially hardy individuals have been reported to live more than 100 years.

14. Marginated Tortoise

Marginated Tortoise on rock.
  • Latin name: Testudo marginata
  • Habitat: Largely mountainous regions of southern Greece and parts of the Balkans
  • Size: Up to about 14″ long
  • Diet: Only eats a wide range of plant matter
  • Colorful feature: As you can see in the picture, the marginated tortoise sometimes has a shell that is so beautifully patterned it looks unreal. From the shading around the carapace edges to the distinctly rippled squares, the marginated tortoise is one you won’t soon forget.

This distinctive creature is Europe’s largest tortoise. It has a beautifully patterned shell, but its head and neck also stand out quite a bit thanks to its very large scales. The marginated tortoise is fairly common in the wild. It also makes a good pet, as it is calm and generally does not become angry too easily.

15. African Dwarf Mud Turtle

African Dwarf Mud Turtle on rock.
  • Latin name: Pelusios nanus
  • Habitat: Near water in the Congo, Angola, Malawi, and Zambia
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 4″ long
  • Diet: Various small animals and some types of plant matter
  • Colorful feature: This cute turtle often looks almost airbrushed. Its shell and body are mostly very dark in color, though there are splashes of yellow on the chest, legs, and sometimes head.

This small turtle has somewhat recently been bred in captivity. It is easy to house and mellow enough to handle. That being said, since there are not too many African dwarf mud turtles in captivity, they are likely to be fairly expensive. They have not been extensively studied, but we’ll likely learn more about them as more are raised and bred as pets. In the pet trade, they are usually called “nanus.”

16. Yellow-Margined Box Turtle

Close-up of Yellow-Margined Box Turtle.
  • Latin name: Cuora flavomarginata sinensis
  • Habitat: Near water in central China as well as parts of Japan and Taiwan
  • Size: Carapace is about 12″ long
  • Diet: Many different types of small animals, fruits, and other plant matter
  • Colorful feature: This turtle is sometimes called the golden-headed turtle. And as you can see in the picture, that name is certainly accurate. Though its shell is patterned in light and dark like the shell of many box turtles, its bright yellow-gold head is easily its most distinctive feature.

Like other box turtles, this one gets its name from its hinged bottom shell. When threatened, it can pull its body into the shell and then fully encase itself. Unfortunately, like some other Asian turtle species, this one is currently classified as an endangered species.

17. Spiny Turtle

Spiny Turtle on leaves.
  • Latin name: Heosemys spinosa
  • Habitat: Mostly hilly rainforests in Southeast Asia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Mostly various types of plant matter, though it does also eat smaller animals
  • Colorful feature: When viewed from above, the spiny turtle is a pretty, rich chestnut brown. But as you can see in the photo, the patterning is much more striking when viewed from below. The spines have high-contrast dark stripes, and the black body is marked with bright red spots.

You may have been surprised to see that some turtles have shells that aren’t rounded at the edges. The remarkable spiny turtle has a pretty, almost pinwheel-like pattern of spikes or spines. Thanks to this distinctive look, you may also hear it described as the cog-wheel turtle.

18. Hellenic Pond Turtle

Close-up of Hellenic Pond Turtle.
  • Latin name: Emys orbicularis hellenica
  • Habitat: Close to ponds and other still bodies of water in western Turkey and surrounding areas
  • Size: Carapace up to about 15″ long
  • Diet: Wide variety of both plant and animal matter
  • Colorful feature: This turtle often has more yellow markings than many other subspecies of European pond turtle. As you can see in the picture, though it has skin and a shell with black base coloration, it is marked with small yet bright yellow spots.

This subspecies of the European pond turtle is also called the western Turkey pond turtle. Like other subspecies, the Hellenic pond turtle is protected by law. It has historically been a popular pet. Now, however, only captive-bred individuals can be kept as pets.

19. Razor-Backed Musk Turtle

Close-up of Razor-Backed Musk Turtle.
  • Latin name: Sternotherus carinatus
  • Habitat: Near slow-moving bodies of water in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi
  • Size: Carapace up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Mostly various types of aquatic invertebrates
  • Colorful feature: This unique turtle has a paler body than many on the list. Its pale skin is flecked in black or dark gray, as is its brownish shell.

Though the razor-backed musk turtle has interesting coloration, its most fascinating feature is probably its carapace. The shell is crowned with a row of razor-like protrusions. Thanks to its smallish size and ease of breeding in captivity, this turtle is one of the species more commonly kept as a pet.

20. Texas Map Turtle

Texas Map Turtle isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Graptemys versa
  • Habitat: Primarily near the Colorado River in Texas
  • Size: Carapace length up to about 8.4″
  • Diet: Primarily seeds, algae, sponges, and various small aquatic animals
  • Colorful feature: Like most other map turtles, the Texas map turtle has intricate patterning on the head, legs, and body. The base color is usually creamy white to pale orange. It is swirled with fine lines of black or near-black.

This distinctive-looking turtle has one of the smaller ranges on the list. It also bears some resemblance to the razor-backed musk turtle mentioned above. The top of its shell has a “crest” of pointed scales that make it look a little like a stegosaurus!

21. Ryukyu Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle

Ryukyu Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Geoemyda japonica
  • Habitat: Close to water on the Ryukyu Islands
  • Size: Carapace up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Various small animals and sometimes plant matter
  • Colorful feature: This turtle has a plain black base color that highlights its fiery red, streaky markings. These markings form along the face and neck, though you can sometimes see them on the underside of the shell and on the legs.

The Ryukyu Islands in Japan are known for interesting wildlife, and this colorful turtle is no exception. It is also an animal of considerable cultural importance: in 1975, Japan designated it as one of the country’s National Natural Monuments. Because it is so rare and colorful, this species is commonly sought after by turtle collectors and enthusiasts around the world.

22. Amazon Toad-Headed Turtle

Close-up of Amazon Toad-Headed Turtle.
  • Latin name: Batrachemys raniceps
  • Habitat: Near water in both the Amazon and Orinoco basins
  • Size: Carapace can be up to 7.5″ long
  • Diet: Various small aquatic animals and some plant matter
  • Colorful feature: As you can see in the picture, this species has very sunny yellow markings. It’s also easy to see how it got its name, as its head does somewhat resemble that of a toad.

Like other toad-headed turtles in the Amazon basin and surrounding areas, the Amazon toad-headed turtle has not been as extensively researched as some other species. It is one of the sidenecked turtles, so it turns its head and neck to the side when retracting back into the shell.

23. Mata Mata

Close-up of Mata Mata turtle.
  • Latin name: Chelus fimbriatus
  • Habitat: Near slow-moving water in many parts of South America
  • Size: Carapace up to about 37″ long
  • Diet: Primarily fish
  • Colorful feature: If you view one of these interesting turtles from above, you might wonder how it made it onto a list of colorful turtles! However, as you can see in the picture, the underside of its head is often bright red. This coloration is usually only present in younger turtles and disappears gradually.

The large mata mata is one of the strangest turtles on the list! It is unable to chew but has an interesting way of catching fish. The mata mata will stand motionless with its head above water. When a fish swims by, it opens its mouth to create a vacuum that pulls the fish toward it.

24. Common Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Chelydra serpentina
  • Habitat: Near water in many areas of eastern North America
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 20″ long
  • Diet: A wide range of aquatic and terrestrial animals and plants
  • Colorful feature: The common snapping turtle isn’t the absolute brightest on the list, though its darker base color is often spotted or mottled with cream or yellow markings. Some individual turtles are closer to being golden or yellow.

This turtle is probably the most aggressive one on the list, especially when it’s out of the water. Experts believe that may be because they are at the top of the food chain in the aquatic realm of their natural range.

25. Loggerhead Turtle

A Loggerhead Turtle swimming in ocean.
  • Latin name:  Caretta caretta
  • Habitat: Most parts of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea
  • Size: Carapace length is about 35″
  • Diet: Mostly various types of marine invertebrates, though they will also eat a range of other plant and animal sea life
  • Colorful feature: The large loggerhead sea turtle has a somewhat unusual color pattern. Much of its body is chestnut brown. However, brown spots on the head are surrounded by off-white lining reminiscent of the coloration of a giraffe.

This sea turtle is one of the largest turtles in the world! As adults, they weigh roughly 300 pounds on average. However, you can sometimes come across one that weighs over 1,000 pounds.

26. Eastern Painted Turtle

Close-up of Eastern Painted Turtle.
  • Latin name: Chrysemys picta picta
  • Habitat: Various habitats close to water in much of eastern North America
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 10″ long
  • Diet: Largely dead or injured fish, though it will eat other marine life as well
  • Colorful feature: The eastern painted turtle just might be the most colorful turtle in North America. As you can see in the photo, its undersides are marked with bright red-orange and yellow. These bright base colors are crossed by beautifully swirled black lines.

Though many colorful turtles are from tropical areas of the world, the eastern painted turtle is proof that North American turtles can often bring color to the world. This turtle is a subspecies of the painted turtle, a species that has been around for quite a while: fossil records indicate that it existed 15 million years ago!

27. Mekong Snail-Eating Turtle

Baby turtle in the sand.
  • Latin name: Malayemys subtrijuga
  • Habitat: Along the basin of the Mekong River in Laos, Cambodia, and parts of Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Malay Peninsula
  • Size: Carapace is around 7″ long
  • Diet: Largely snails and other marine life
  • Colorful feature: The Mekong snail-eating turtle has an intricate high-contrast pattern that really draws the eye. Its shell is deep brown with sections lined in off-white. Though its body is black or near-black, it is also lined with irregular, creamy white stripes.

This nice-looking turtle has not been researched quite as extensively as some of the other species on the list. It’s one of the species whose range is fairly confined to the basin of one river. Currently, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies it as being near threatened.

28. Red-Eared Slider

Red-Eared Slider near shallow water.
  • Latin name: Trachemys scripta elegans
  • Habitat: Most areas near water in the southern United States and northern Mexico, though it has been introduced to many other parts of the world
  • Size: Carapace is up to 16″ long, although most individuals are smaller
  • Diet: Various types of plants and animals in or near water
  • Colorful feature: The red-eared slider has beautiful marbled markings of yellow and dark green or black. But its most striking feature is the bright red line along each side of the head.

This small, good-natured turtle is the most popular pet turtle in the United States. Unfortunately, thanks to the deliberate and accidental introduction of pet red-eared sliders into the wild, it is now also one of the top 100 invasive species in the world.

29. Green Sea Turtle

A Green Sea Turtle swimming over a tropical coral reef.
  • Latin name: Chelonia mydas
  • Habitat: Many parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 47″ long
  • Diet: Juveniles only eat smaller marine animals, though adults eat both marine animals and plants
  • Colorful feature: Despite the name, green sea turtles are not particularly green. At first glance, they look a bit like loggerhead turtles, though the brown sections of their shells appear to lighten toward the center. Their arms and legs are patterned in dark brown and off-white, though they are often lined with yellow.

Since these turtles are not green on the outside, you might wonder where the name comes from. Oddly enough, it comes from the green color of their fat. The green coloration comes from the ocean vegetation they eat.

30. African Helmeted Turtle

Close-up of African Helmeted Turtle.
  • Latin name: Pelomedusa subrufa
  • Habitat: Both areas of stagnant water and fresh water in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Yemen
  • Size: Carapace is usually around 8″ long
  • Diet: Will eat nearly anything; seeks out a range of animal and plant matter
  • Colorful feature: This turtle’s remarkable coloring comes mostly from the high contrast between the top and bottom of its body. The head has a creamy whitish base color with a darker brown “helmet” on the top.

This interesting turtle is another that is relatively common in the pet trade. When sold as a pet, it is typically called the African sidenecked turtle. However, you may hear it called by the common names “marsh turtle” and “crocodile turtle.”

31. Blanding’s Turtle

Close-up of Blanding's Turtle.
  • Latin name: Emydoidea blandingii
  • Habitat: Typically close to the Great Lakes and surrounding areas
  • Size: Carapace is up to 10″ long
  • Diet: Eats various types of small animals as well as fruit and vegetable matter
  • Colorful feature: Some individual Blanding’s turtles are more colorful than others. In many cases, the dark shell is spotted or mottled with yellow. The underside of the head and neck are often bright yellow as well. But as you can see in the picture, that yellow is sometimes more soft than it is bright.

You might not hear about this turtle too often, but it is of great interest to the scientific community. Specifically, its longevity is being studied. The Blanding’s turtle shows virtually no signs of aging, and it is still capable of reproducing when it is over 90 years old.

32. White-Lipped Mud Turtle

Close-up of White-Lipped Mud Turtle.
  • Latin name: Kinosternon leucostomum postinguinale
  • Habitat: Muddy areas in much of Central America and parts of South America
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 7″ long
  • Diet: Various types of animal and/or plant matter depending on availability
  • Colorful feature: The name of this species points pretty clearly to its most colorful feature. But as you can see in the picture, its lips and other parts of the head are sometimes a lively yellow instead of white.

These turtles aren’t the absolute most popular pet species, but they can be kept in captivity. One of the greatest advantages of keeping a white-lipped mud turtle is that this species is not a picky eater at all!

33. Yellow-Blotched Map Turtle

Yellow-blotched map turtle isolated against black background.
  • Latin name: Graptemys flavimaculata
  • Habitat: Many parts of the southern United States that are near water
  • Size: Carapace up to about 7.5″ long
  • Diet: Largely insects, though they will eat easily available plant and animal matter too
  • Colorful feature: As you may have guessed from the name, this turtle has a stunning map-like pattern. The scales of its shell are yellow in the center with black line borders, while the body has distinctive marbling of black and yellow.

The markings on the yellow-blotched map turtle are certainly stunning. But the crest of its shell is remarkable, too: it is lined with intimidating-looking black spikes.

34. Okavango Mud Turtle

Close-up of Okavango Mud Turtle head.
  • Latin name: Pelusios bechuanicus
  • Habitat: Various muddy areas in Botswana, Angola, the Congo, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia
  • Size: Carapace up to about 5″ long
  • Diet: Various types of plant and animal matter
  • Colorful feature: Though the “mud turtle” part of the name might make you picture a dull brown creature, the Okavango mud turtle has some eye-catching coloring. As you can see in the picture, the head and body are mottled with a pretty parchment yellow and black.

This cute turtle seems to spend most of its time in the water. In some ways, it is similar to the box turtles found in North America; when it needs to, it can close its shell completely.

35. Central Vietnamese Flowerback Box Turtle

Central Vietnamese Flowerback Box Turtle isolated on black background.
  • Latin name: Cuora bourreti
  • Habitat: Forests in Laos and central Vietnam
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 8″ long
  • Diet: Various types of forest and aquatic plant and animal matter
  • Colorful feature: The lovely name of this turtle might conjure images of delicate aquatic flowers, but its shell is more of a soft medium brown. As you can see in the picture, it has a remarkably pale body that is marked by distinctive dark lines.

This pretty turtle is quite at home in the forests of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, it is classified as a critically endangered species. It breeds well in captivity and may have its population restored in part via captive breeding.

36. Red-Cheeked Mud Turtle

Close-up of Red-Cheeked Mud Turtle.
  • Latin name: Kinosternon scorpioides cruentatum
  • Habitat: Near bodies of water in parts of Central America, South America, and Mexico
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 10.6″ long
  • Diet: Eats a huge amount of animal and plant matter
  • Colorful feature: The name makes this turtle sound a little like the red-eared slider. However, the head has more red. It has a black base color with tiger-like stripes of red running sideways.

The red-cheeked mud turtle is one of the subspecies of the scorpion mud turtle. Though not as popular as the red-eared slider and some other species, it can be kept in captivity. Just be sure to feed it enough, as it may try to eat its tankmates if it gets too hungry!

37. Mississippi Map Turtle

Mississippi Map Turtle isolated against white background.
  • Latin name: Graptemys pseudogeographica kohni
  • Habitat: Close to water in much of the central United States
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 5″ long
  • Diet: Small aquatic animals and various types of plant matter
  • Colorful feature: The Mississippi map turtle is one of the most intricately patterned of the map turtles. Its body appears to be marbled with fine lines of yellowish and black. Its shell has a similar pattern with yellow lines reminiscent of contours on a map.

The Mississippi map turtle is one of the common pet species found in captivity. Unfortunately, in the wild, its numbers are threatened by another pet species that has become invasive: the re-eared slider.

38. Pancake Tortoise

Pancake Tortoise on rock.
  • Latin name: Malacochersus tornieri
  • Habitat: Dry areas of Kenya and Tanzania
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 7″ long
  • Diet: Mostly grasses and vegetation
  • Colorful feature: Though this tortoise is shaped like a pancake, its coloration is a lot more intricate! It has a darker base color marked with yellow-brown spots.

You might be surprised to hear that the pancake-shaped pancake tortoise has a shell that is actually thin and flexible. Unfortunately, this unique feature makes it popular among collectors, so its wild numbers have become threatened. 

39. Indian Roofed Turtle

Close-up of Indian Roofed Turtle.
  • Latin name: Pangshura tecta
  • Habitat: Near South Asian major rivers
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 9″ long
  • Diet: Various aquatic plants and smaller aquatic animals
  • Colorful feature: Though the top of this turtle’s shell is black, the bottom is largely bright yellow. The body has colorful patterning, too: the legs are marked in yellow spots while the neck has black and yellow bands.

This unique turtle gets its name from the distinctive roof-like portion of the top of its shell. Though it isn’t common everywhere in the world, it is a popular pet in India and surrounding areas.

40. Western Painted Turtle

Close-up of Western Painted Turtle's head.
  • Latin name: Chrysemys picta bellii
  • Habitat: Watery areas in parts of central and western North America
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 10″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects in early summer and mostly plants in late summer
  • Colorful feature: This beautiful turtle has markings similar to that of the eastern painted turtle. Individual coloration may vary, but they usually have a mixture of yellow and fiery red on the body and the underside of the shell.

This painted turtle subspecies is the western equivalent of the eastern painted turtle. It is remarkable in that, unlike other painted turtle subspecies, it helps spread the seeds of the white water lily.

41. Pink-Bellied Turtle

Pink-Bellied Turtle on rock.
  • Latin name: Elseya schultzei
  • Habitat: Watery parts of northern Guinea
  • Size: Carapace around 9″ long
  • Diet: Usually a mixture of aquatic plants and small animals
  • Colorful feature: When viewed from above, the pink-bellied turtle looks dull. But as you can see in the picture, its belly and underside of the shell are a brilliant salmon pink!

This unique species, also called Schultze’s snapping turtle, can sometimes be found in captivity. As turtles go, it is fairly inexpensive and is usually well under $100. If cared for well, it will often live from 20-40 years or even more.

42. Bowsprit Tortoise

Bowspirit Tortoise on block sand.
  • Latin name: Chersina angulata
  • Habitat: Coastal scrubby areas and dry parts of South Africa
  • Size: Carapace up to about 11″ long
  • Diet: Usually a huge variety of land plants
  • Colorful feature: This tortoise’s shell comes in plenty of variations. The one in the photo is among the most colorful, as it combines black, rich red-brown, and white. Usually, the shells include a similar pattern, though the exact coloration may be different.

This tortoise gets its name from shell protrusions that look like bowsprits of a ship. A bowsprit is a stick-like protrusion at the prow of a boat. It is smallish and slow-moving, so it is a great garden pet!

43. Hilaire’s Toadhead Turtle

Close-up of Hilaire’s Toadhead Turtle.
  • Latin name: Phrynops hilarii
  • Habitat: Freshwater bodies in various parts of South America
  • Size: Carapace up to about 16″ long
  • Diet: Largely arthropods, though they will also eat other animals including small mammals
  • Colorful feature: This striking turtle has a pretty two-toned head with a lighter bottom and darker top. The line on its head is especially striking, as it goes straight through its golden eye!

If you take a look at this turtle’s head in profile, you’ll see why it’s called a toad-headed turtle. If you looked without the shell, you would likely think you were looking at the head of a frog or toad.

44. Furrowed Wood Turtle

Close-up of Furrowed Wood Turtle.
  • Latin name: Rhinoclemmys areolata
  • Habitat: Various habitat types in the Yucatan Peninsula and parts of Central America
  • Size: Carapace up to about 10″ long
  • Diet: Various types of plant and animal matter; exact diet varies by location
  • Colorful feature: Like many wood turtles, the furrowed wood turtle has a fairly nondescript shell. But as you can see in the picture, its body is often marked with bright yellow, black, and even a little red!

This pretty turtle is part of a large genus of wood turtles found throughout the neotropical regions of the Americas. This particular species is currently classified as being near threatened by the IUCN.

45. Red-Bellied Short Neck Turtle

Close-up of Red-Bellied Short Neck Turtle.
  • Latin name: Emydura subglobosa
  • Habitat: Tropical areas of New Guinea and Australia
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 6″ long
  • Diet: Various types of aquatic plants and small animals
  • Colorful feature: As the name indicates, this turtle has a bright red-orange belly. The belly is marked with splashes of white, and the face has two short, thick lines of soft yellow.

This turtle is decidedly more colorful than most of the other short-neck turtle species on the list. Thanks in part to its color, it’s a popular pet. It cannot be exported from Australia, so most pets are caught in New Guinea or captive-bred in the United States, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. 

46. Spotted Flapshell Turtle

Spotted Flapshell Turtle isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Lissemys punctata andersoni
  • Habitat: Still or mostly still waters in South Asia
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 15″ long
  • Diet: Mostly insects, snails, and carrion
  • Colorful feature: This turtle is somewhat unusual in that both the shell and body are spotted. Usually, this looks like yellowish spots on a darker body.

The “flapshell” in the name of this turtle comes from a very interesting feature: it has flaps to cover its arms and legs once they are brought into the shell. Experts aren’t exactly sure how (or if) the spots offer extra protection from predators. Unfortunately, this species is currently classified by the IUCN as being vulnerable to extinction.

47. Ringed Map Turtle

Ringed Map Turtle isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Graptemys oculifera
  • Habitat: Watery areas around the Pearl River in Mississippi and Louisiana
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 8.5″ long
  • Diet: Largely a variety of aquatic plants and small aquatic animals
  • Colorful feature: This beautiful map turtle, like other map turtles, has a shell with concentric rings that mimic the contours on a map. Its body also has especially eye-catching stripes of black and pale yellow.

This turtle is sometimes also called the ringed sawback turtle. It’s easy to see why; its shell has several protrusions that stick out like the teeth of a saw. It has a narrow range and is currently classified as being vulnerable to extinction.

48. Flowerback Box Turtle

Flowerback Box Turtle isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Cuora galbinifrons
  • Habitat: Woodland areas in parts of China, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia
  • Size: Carapace is around 8″ long
  • Diet: Different types of both plant and animal material
  • Colorful feature: Like many box turtle types, this one is a mixture of yellow and black or near-black. It is especially striking because a large portion of its shell is bright, glossy yellow.

This beautiful turtle is one of the most unusual on the list. Unfortunately, it is also classified as being critically endangered. Experts disagree on the number of subspecies, but all of them are under threat.

49. Indian Star Tortoise

Indian Star Tortoise isolated on white background.
  • Latin name: Geochelone elegans
  • Habitat: Scrubby forests and dry areas in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 10″ long
  • Diet: Mostly various types of plant matter
  • Colorful feature: This tortoise has one of the most truly mesmerizing patterns on the list. As the name suggests, its shell is covered with several yellow-bronze star-like markings.

The markings of the Indian star tortoise are beautiful, but you might wonder what purpose they serve. The dark base color and pale lines have very high contrast for a reason. When a predator sees the tortoise, the pattern will usually break up the tortoise’s outline in the eyes of the predator. As a result, the tortoise can sometimes go completely undetected.

50. Red-Footed Tortoise

Close-up of Red-Footed Tortoise.
  • Latin name: Chelonoidis carbonaria
  • Habitat: Various habitat types in many parts of northern South America
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 16″ long
  • Diet: A large variety of plants and animals, though exact diet varies by location
  • Colorful feature: This tortoise has a highly unusual color pattern. Much of the body is dark or black. However, the feet and sometimes other parts of the body have scales that are bright red or orange mixed in. The dark shell also has neat rows of pale patches across the top.

This easygoing tortoise is a common choice of pet. But unfortunately, over-collection for the pet trade has led to it being considered vulnerable to extinction.

51. Northern Giant Musk Turtle

Close-up of Northern Giant Musk Turtle.
  • Latin name: Staurotypus triporcatus
  • Habitat: Close to water in parts of Mexico and Central America
  • Size: Carapace is up to about 14″ long
  • Diet: Fish, carrion, and various types of marine invertebrates
  • Colorful feature: This large turtle comes in a variety of colors, some of which are brighter than others. That being said, just about every color variety has a distinctive, very bright yellow underside.

This big and beautiful turtle is not one you typically see in the pet trade. That being said, other environmental factors have led to it being classified as a near-threatened species.

52. Spotted Turtle

Spotted Turtle crawling on gravel.
  • Latin name: Clemmys guttata
  • Habitat: Various aquatic and semi-aquatic parts of much of the eastern United States and along the Great Lakes
  • Size: Carapace reaches about 5″ long
  • Diet: Various small animals and aquatic plants; it only hunts in the water
  • Colorful feature: These turtles frequently have spots on both the shell and the body. These spots look a lot like polka dots and range from bright white to soft yellow.

Spotted turtles are certainly eye-catching, although some are more memorable than others. Some individual turtles will only have a few spots across the shell and body. Others will have many. Between the presence of their spots and the fact that their shells do not have a keel, they are fairly easy to identify.

53. Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle in forest.
  • Latin name: Terrapene carolina carolina
  • Habitat: Close to water across much of the eastern United States
  • Size: Carapace reaches about 8″ long
  • Diet: Many different types of plants and very small animals
  • Colorful feature: These turtles have darker shells that are beautifully and intricately patterned with yellow. Due to natural sun exposure, wild box turtles are often much brighter than captive ones.

Unfortunately, the slow-moving eastern box turtle has been classified as being vulnerable to extinction. Part of that is due to the fact that they are often hit by cars. In captivity, they can sometimes live over 100 years if taken good care of.

Nature’s Brightly Colored Turtles

Hopefully you saw a couple of turtle species you recognized and ran into a few that you didn’t. Whether you’re taking a hike by the river or visiting a tropical island, we hope you keep an eye out for these bright and exciting creatures!