Painted turtles have a large natural range, encompassing much of North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico, although they're absent from most of the southwestern United States. Additionally, humans have introduced painted turtles to locations outside of their natural range, including Spain, Germany, the Philippines and Indonesia. Painted turtles usually inhabit quiet freshwater lakes and ponds with soft muddy bottoms and an abundance of aquatic plant life.
Painted turtles are named for the attractive red markings on their heads, legs and shells. Scientists recognize four different subspecies of painted turtles: eastern, southern, midland and western. As evidenced by fossils found in the central United States, painted turtles have inhabited the region for at least 15 million years.
Painted turtles undergo an ontogenetic, or age-related, dietary shift. When they are young, painted turtles subsist on worms, insects and aquatic vertebrates. However, as they mature, painted turtles begin consuming more vegetation. Once they are adults, aquatic plants make up the bulk of their diet, although they will readily consume carrion when it is available.
Painted turtles are diurnal creatures that spend a lot of time basking in the sunshine. This basking behavior helps to elevate their body temperature, resist the growth of algae and rid their bodies of parasitic leeches.