Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

From Ohio History Central
Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle.jpg

Unlike most turtles that Ohioans are familiar with, the spiny softshell turtle's (Apalone spinifera spinifera)shell is covered with a tough, leathery skin. The carapace is olive green with black-bordered "eye spots" and a dark rim. It gets its name from the row of small spines on the front of the shell. It has a long, pointed snout.

Softshells breed from May to August. Females lay from four to thirty-two eggs during this time. The small reptiles will hatch and then begin to grow until they reach an average body length of 5 - 9.25 inches in males and 6.5 - 18 inches in females.

Using its large webbed feet, it is an excellent swimmer and extremely fast both on land and in water. Like the snapping turtle, it is very aggressive.

The softshell can be found throughout Ohio in habitats of mainly rivers, but can be found in lakes, small streams and farm ponds. It prefers shallow water with a sand or mud bottom, as it will sit on the water's bottom and rock back and forth, flipping sand and mud on itself until it is buried. It will lie like this for hours, either with its nose at the surface of the water or taking oxygen directly from the water, waiting for prey such as crayfish, frogs and small fish to come close.

In the fall it will seek bury itself in the mud to hibernate between October and April.

Softshell turtles have a life expectancy of up to 25 years.

See Also