Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

Identification: Carapace narrow and high arched; black or brown, often algae covered. Plastron small, with skin between scutes. Snout pointed, usually two yellow stripes on side of head. Tail very short.

Common Musk Turtle
Photo © Jim Harding

Adult carapace length: 3.25 to 5.37 inches (8.3 to 13.6 cm).

Habitat: In Michigan, mostly inhabits clear lakes with sand or marl bottoms.

Habits: Rarely bask, are generally seen foraging along the bottom in shallow water. May be nocturnal in summer. They eat snails, crayfish, insects, tadpoles, etc. If disturbed, glands along lower edge of shell secrete a foul-smelling musk, hence the common name "stinkpot."

Reproduction: Females deposit 2 to 9 elliptical, hard shelled eggs in ground or under shoreline debris. Eggs hatch in late summer or fall. Hatchlings are less than one inch long.

Range and Status: Common in southern Lower Peninsula, but threatened by lakeshore development.

Related Documents
Musk Turtle Occurrences Map PDF icon