Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina
) are diet generalists and as such are predicted to have diverse diets in which familiar, low-quality foods are eaten consistently at low levels, and high-quality foods are rare but eaten whenever available. Previous work showed that they feed opportunistically on seasonally available plants (shoots, leaves, flowers, and fruit), invertebrates, mushrooms, and occasionally carrion. We used fecal samples to test optimal foraging predictions relevant to diet generalists and also whether the Eastern Box Turtle diets varied seasonally in a northeastern U.S. pine-oak habitat. We found that in-depth prey species consumption patterns of six different individuals were similar to those of the sampled population overall. Leaf and stem material was consumed by 100% of the turtles in all months despite being lower-quality than other prey available. Invertebrates were consumed by at least 80% of turtles in every study period; Coleopterans were found more commonly than other invertebrates. Snails were not eaten by more than 20% of the turtles in any study period, and mushroom consumption varied from 31–75% of samples in different study periods. Monthly diet overlap was measured using both Pianka’s Index of Overlap (PIO) and the Morisita–Horn Index (MH). The PIO method indicated that the prey consumption patterns were broadly similar from June–October, while the M–H method showed that only the July vs. August comparison was highly similar. The turtle diets changed only slightly between seasons, and they conform to predictions of diet generalist models usually applied to mammals.
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