Softshell Turtles

  • Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera aspera)
  • Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox)

Other Images of Softshell Turtles

Softshell Turtles are very peculiar looking. To some extent, they look like pancakes with legs and a head. The thickness of the body is proportionally much less than the shell width and length, giving them a very flat appearance. As their name implies, the shell is not hard like our other turtles, but leathery and flexible. Softshells cannot withdraw into their shells. Softshells have very long, narrow snouts. These turtles can move very quickly and strongly. Softshells bask, but are very weary and will return to the water at the slightest provocation.

Female Softshell Turtles grow quite large, with topshell lengths of about 18 inches. Males, however, are very much smaller than the females. Male topshell lengths reach only to about 8 inches. In terms of mass, the males are diminutive compared to the females.

Gulf Coast Spiny Softshells are potentially found throughout South Carolina. They reside mainly in our rivers. The Florida Softshell Turtle's range in South Carolina is limited the extreme southern tip of the state. Florida Softshells prefer lake habitats.

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updated: January 23, 2006
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians