The European pond terrapin (or tortoise) has a wide distribution through Europe and there is fossil evidence that its range once included Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Estonia, but it has long been extinct in these regions due to climatic change.
Although its appearance varies over its large range, this tortoise is usually easily identifiable by the bright yellow or gold speckling on the dark carapace and skin. However, some populations can be nearly entirely black with very few yellow markings at all. In general, individuals from the northern climes tend to be markedly larger and darker than their southern counterparts. There are currently 14 described regional subspecies, which differ in size, colour and markings. European pond terrapin shells (like all terrapins) are actually modified rib-cages where the ribs have become fused and surround the animal.