Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera) - Ohio Herp Atlas

Spiny Softshell Apalone spinifera

The Spiny Softshell’s body, instead of being protected by bony plates, has a tough, rubbery covering. At the front of the carapace is a row of small, conical spines that account for the name “spiny.” What this turtle lacks in heavy protective armor, it makes up for in speed and disposition. It is every bit as aggressive as the snapping turtle and its swimming ability far surpasses that of other turtles. Although it can be found in lakes and smaller streams, the Eastern Spiny Softshell is essentially a river turtle. It prefers relatively shallow water with a sand or soft mud bottom. A common habit of the softshell is to settle on the bottom by rocking from side to side, while flipping sand and mud up onto its back, completely burying itself. Usually it lies just deep enough for its long, pointed snout to reach the surface for air with the help of its extremely long neck. However, the softshell does not have to get air from the surface. While it is submerged, it pumps water in and out of its mouth and pharynx. The highly vascular lining of the pharynx removes oxygen from the water and expels carbon dioxide. LENGTH: Males - 5”–9”; Females - 7”–17”

Text courtesy of the Ohio Division of Wildlife: https://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/portals/wildlife/pdfs/publications/id%20guides/pub354_Reptiles-opt.pdf

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera)
Photographs
Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera)
Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera)