Species Spotlight Vol. 6

by Jordan Gray 

Sacalia Species Spotlight Female

Female Four-eyed Turtle at the Turtle Survival Center. Photo Credit: Nathan Haislip

Sacalia Species Spotlight 600

Male Four-eyed Turtle owned by Steve Enders. Photo Credit: Lisa Enders

Four-eyed Turtle (Sacalia quadriocellata)

Countries of Origin: People’s Republic of China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Vietnam

IUCN Status:  Endangered

Estimated surviving population: Unknown/Declining

Habitat: Streams, brooks, and small pools in association with montane, evergreen, wooded, riparian zones from approximately 170 – 640 m in elevation.

Habits: Very little information has been documented about this shy species. Four-eyed Turtles are a secretive animal, with primary activity closely associated with dawn, dusk, and nocturnal hours. They are not a highly-active species, spending much of their time in a resting state in their shallow-water habitats. They are omnivorous, feeding on annelid worms, crustaceans, fish, fruit, insects, and mollusks. 

Size: Mainland specimens 12-15 cm, Hainan Island specimens 15-18 cm.

Factoid: Four-eyed Turtles are named for the four, distinct, eye-spots or ocelli on the top of the head. Each ocellus has a distinct black spot or “pupil” in the center. These ocelli range in color including yellows, greens, and blues. Size, color, and pattern of the ocelli are very much linked to sexual dimorphism and age class. Yellow ocelli are most often seen in hatchling, juvenile, and female turtles. It is hypothesized that the eyespots may serve multiple purposes including defense against predators in the form of mimicry, and/or they can be for used for communication/courtship!

Greatest Threats: Deforestation and collection for the food and pet trades.

How you can help: At the Turtle Survival Center, we have a small breeding group of this little-understood and declining species. You can best assist us in our efforts to gain valuable insight into the biology and preservation of this beautiful animal by DONATING TODAY!