The viability and motility of spermatozoa harvested from the epididymides of turtles were estimated to elucidate properties that might enable them to be stored over long periods of time. Spermatozoa from the painted turtle, Chrysemys picta, were analysed and compared with spermatozoa from two other turtles, Trachemys scripta and Sternotherus odoratus using the Cellsoft analysis system for videotaped images. Spermatozoa from C. picta and T. scripta, suspended in F-10 medium, showed low motility (3-6% motile) and motion velocities, whereas the motility of spermatozoa from S. odoratus was higher (40% motile). Spermatozoa from C. picta and S. odoratus, but not T. scripta, had higher motilities and motion velocities when incubated at 2 degrees C before analyses. C. picta spermatozoa were unresponsive to calcium concentrations ranging from 10(-8) to 10(-1) mol l(-1), potassium concentrations ranging from 0. 1 to 10 mmol l(-1), and to pH values in the range 5.9-8.4. Spermatozoa from C. picta were sensitive to hypo-osmotic media, and showed reduced motility at 25% of normal osmolarity and no motility at 10% of normal osmolarity. Distorted cells and missing flagellae were noted at 50% of normal osmolarity. C. picta spermatozoa were viable up to 40 days after harvest when incubated at 4 degrees C; during this time, both motility and motion velocity were increased in response to 0.5 mmol 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine l(-1). Spermatozoa from turtles have osmotic properties and resistance to changing chemical environments similar to spermatozoa from other vertebrates that have internal fertilization, and appear to be stable over long periods of time compared with spermatozoa from other vertebrate species.