Spiny Soft-shell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera)

Identification: Smooth, flat, "rubbery," skin-covered shell lacks scutes and has flexible edges. Brown or olive carapace covered with black circles and spots in males and juveniles, dark blotches in females. Nose long and pig like, all feet fully webbed.

Spiny Soft-shell Turtle
Photo © Jim Harding

Adult female carapace length: 7 to 19 inches (18 to 48 cm).
Adult male carapace length: 5 to 9.25 inches (12.7 to 23 cm).

Habitat: Rivers, lakes, impoundments with sand or mud bottom with little vegetation.

Habits: Will bask on logs or banks; often bury themselves in sand or mud in shallow water. They rarely move over land except to nest. These turtles are very fast swimmers and agile on land; will bite in self defense. They eat crayfish, insects, tadpoles, and occasionally small fish.

Reproduction: Mostly in June, females dig a nest cavity in sunny spot near water, deposit 4 to 38 round, hard shelled eggs. Eggs hatch in August or September.

Range and Status: Common in southern and north central Lower Peninsula. Threatened by pollution, over-harvest, and shoreline development.

Related Documents
Spiny Soft-shell Turtle Occurrences Map PDF icon