Eastern Spiny Softshelled Turtle

[Apalone spinifera spinifera]

The shell of the eastern spiny soft-shell turtle is leathery with a marginal dark line on the carapace and tubercles on its anterior margin. The carapace is a wide oval, nearly as broad as it is long. Most of the carapace surface is roughened by small, sharp projections that give it a sandpaper-like surface. Coloration of the carapace is olive to grayish with numerous dark spots. The plastron is a uniform white or yellow in color. The lips are yellow and dark-spotted. The feet are mottled or streaked with yellow. Females are larger than males, and the coloration of the sexes is also different. Males tend to keep juvenile markings of spots and lines. Juveniles are usually paler in color than adults.

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Range

The range of the eastern spiny soft-shell turtle is the eastern half of the United States.


Habitat

The eastern spiny soft shell-turtle inhabits larger, slow-moving rivers; occasionally ponds, lakes or small streams, rarely leaving the vicinity of water.


Gestation

Incubation: 60 to 90 days


Litter

Clutch: 10 to 25 eggs


Behavior

Despite its being an almost totally aquatic species, the eastern spiny soft-shelled turtle is fond of emerging from the water and basking in the sun for hours, sometimes congregating in large numbers. The normal period of activity in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio appears to be from April to October. The winter dormant period is often passed under a shallow covering of sand.


Reproduction

Copulation in eastern spiny soft-shell turtles has not been observed. Egg-laying occurs from June until the end of July. The nest is flask-shaped, ranging in depth from four to ten inches, with the greatest diameter from three to five inches, and with a narrow neck, about one and a half inches in diameter. The shell of the egg is thick, but not brittle.


Wild Diet

Omnivorous, but prefers crayfish and other invertebrates. Some vegetation.


Zoo Diet

Chopped fish & meat; insect larvae



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