Thesis Title

Digestion and Chelonochory in Two Sympatric Species of Box Turtles, Terrapene Carolina and Terrapene Ornata, on Pure Diets of Fruit


Matt Stone

Date of Graduation

Fall 2002


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Don Moll

Subject Categories



Terrapene carolina and T. ornata are sympatric in Missouri; however they tend to be habitat specific. There is also a disparity in their diets, with T. carolina tending to be slightly more herbivorous than T. ornata. Differences in diet and habitat may require different digestive physiologies in these species. This study investigated the ability of these species to digest and then successfully germinate seeds from three different pure diets of fuit (blackberry, mayapple, and commercial strawberry). Blackberry was considered familiar to both species, mayapple considered familiar to T. carolina, and strawberry unfamiliar to both species. Fruit diet had a significant effect on digestive efficiency and gut transit rate. There was a significant difference in digestive efficiency between the turtle species that were fed strawberry diets, but not those fed blackberry and mayapple diets. High levels of mold contamination destroyed the majority of seeds before germination and thus germination trials were not reliable estimates of the turtles' ability to disperse seeds. This study suggests that diet-dependent differences in digestive abilities exist between these turtles.


© Matt Stone