Spiny Softshell Turtle

(Apalone spinifera)

Reptiles Alive Name: “Apalone”

Hissstory: Apalone was transferred to us from the Virginia Wildlife Center where he had been rescued as an abandoned pet.

RA Diet: Apalone likes to eat aquatic turtle pellet food, worms, crickets and superworms.

Natural Diet: Softshell turtles prey on fish, worms, insects, tadpoles, and frogs.

Range: Spiny softshell turtles live in much of the eastern United States.  They are found in the far southwestern corner of Virginia and there is a tiny population of them in far western Maryland.

Habitat: Hangouts for softshell turtles include slow moving water with muddy or sandy bottoms.

Size: Spiny softshell turtle females can grow to about 15 inches long.  Male spiny soft-shells are much smaller and grow to around 8 inches.

Lifespan: Softshell turtles can live over 25 years.

Reproduction: Softshell turtles lay from 4 to 33 spherical eggs on land in the spring. The eggs hatch around August and September.  Sometimes, the  eggs & babies remain in the nest and  hatch in the spring.

Conservation: Softshell turtles are being over- harvested for the Asian food market.  They are now a threatened and protected species in parts of their range, including Maryland.

Cool Facts: Softshell turtles are very bizarre looking turtles. They have a smooth, leathery shell that looks so different from other turtle species. This shell is made of bone like other turtles, but it is covered in thick skin made of keratin.  The lighter shell allows these turtles to rocket through the water away from strong alligator jaws.

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