Softshell turtles (family Trionychidae
) have soft, leathery shells, webbed feet, and long snouts that they extend to the surface of the water. They also burrow into the mud and extend their snouts to the surface to breathe. Softshells have soft lips but strong jaws that deliver a nasty bite. While aquatic, they do bask. They stay close to the water and are very fast swimmers. They also can move very quickly on land.
The Florida Softshell Turtle
, Apalone ferox
, is found in marshes, lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers with sandy or muddy bottoms throughout the state. Its shell is brightly colored in juveniles but becomes dark and drab as the turtle ages. It reaches a maximum length of 20". It burrows into the bottom sand waiting for prey (frogs, fish, and crustaceans).
The Gulf Coast Smooth Softshell
, Apalone mutica calvata
, is found in the Escambia River. Its 11" long shell is olive to dark brown with a lighter border. Males' shells may be spotted.
The Spiny Softshell Turtle
, Apalone spinifera
, is found west of the Appalachicola and St. Mary's Rivers. Its shell is flat, round and a light grayish brown, looking much like a pancake, with small spines at the edge of the shell by the neck.
The Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell
, Apalone spiniferus aspera
, is found in quiet waters and slow-moving rivers in the panhandle. It is olive brown to greenish. Males' shells are spotted; females have faded spots. Small spines cover the front edge of the shell. It grows to 18" long.
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