This week on Meet the Critters, we’re introducing you to a common sight in ponds and creeks around Kansas – the red-eared slider! Red-eared sliders get their names from two things: the first is the bright patches of red right behind their eyes, the second is their reaction to being startled while basking – they slide right into the water to escape.
While red-eared sliders are almost entirely aquatic, they do require places to get out of the water and bask. Basking is a behavioral tool used by lots of reptiles to help regulate their body temperature. Since they’re cold blooded, lying in the sun helps raise their temperature. In addition, natural sunlight helps reptiles produce vitamin D, which is vital for making sure their bones stay strong (just like in humans!).
Red-eared sliders vary their diets throughout their lives. Young sliders eat a mostly carnivorous diet since they need plenty of protein to grow. As they age, red-eared sliders shift their diet to more plants. Red-eared sliders have a very wide diet whether they’re eating plants or animals, and have been known to consume everything from tadpoles and snails, to carrion and algae. One fascinating fact about red-eared sliders is that they do not produce saliva, and must eat their food underwater.
Red-eared sliders have been very popular in the pet trade all over the world. Irresponsible owners releasing their pets outside has led to invasive populations far outside their natural range, from California to Great Britain to Taiwain. Their native range is most of the southeastern United States, up to Missouri and Kansas. In captivity, red-eared sliders have been known to live for over 30 years, and grow up to 11 inches long.