Apalone spinifera

Apalone spinifera, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Reptilia
Subclassis: Anapsida
Ordo: Testudines
Subordo: Cryptodira
Superfamilia: Trionychoidea
Familia: Trionychidae
Subfamilia: Trionychinae
Genus: Apalone
Species: Apalone spinifera


Trionyx spiniferus

Apalone spinifera, Photo: Michael Lahanas


The Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera, formerly Trionyx spiniferus) is a species of softshelled turtle, one of the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. They get their name from the spiny, cone-like projections on the leading edge of their carapace, which are not scutes (scales).

Geographic range

The Spiny Softshell Turtle has a wide range, extending throughout much of the United States, as well as north into the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and south into the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Baja California, Morelos,and Honduras.


The species was first described by Charles Alexandre Lesueur in 1827. It has been redescribed numerous times, leading to some confusion in its taxonomy. There are now seven recognized subspecies, which vary primarily by geography, and are not easily distinguishable from one another.

Spiny Softshell Turtle Pets

A soft-shell turtle requires a lot of care and equipment in order to be kept as a pet. They are very delightful animals, they have interesting personalities, and they are fun to watch.

These turtles need a large tank, lots of sand for submerging themselves, a ledge for basking, a full spectrum UVA daylight bulb for basking, heaters (their tanks need to be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit), and a high-powered filter. These turtles often enjoy caves, or other "houses" where they can hide out. They usually don't get along with other turtles, so it is important to keep just one, or monitor the interactions between multiples. Many of these turtles like to submerge themselves in the sand, and raise their necks to the surface of the water for air. With this in mind, it is important to have shallow water in your tank.

These turtles like to eat small fish, dried shrimp, or aquatic turtle foods that are found in pet stores. Hatchlings should be fed a small pellet once a day, and adults should be fed every other day.

Soft-shell turtles tend to "beg" for food, so it is important to make sure that you do not over-indulge your turtle. Overweight soft-shell turtles are at risk for sudden death.

Soft-shell turtles are also at risk for shell infections. These usually occur if the water is not clean, or if they injure themselves and the wound becomes infected. You can easily tell if your water is not clean based on appearance and smell. In addition to running a high-powered filter 24 hours a day, it is important to completely change your turtle's water every two weeks. Sulfa dip, which is found in most pet stores, is the main treatment for shell infections. Soft-shell turtles also bask in order to dry their shells to maintain shell health. If your softshell turtle has a shell infection, and is refusing to bask, you may want to remove them from the tank for about 30 minutes in order for the shell to dry.


The Spiny Softshell Turtle becomes sexually mature between ages 8 and 10. A large female turtle may live up to 50 years. The turtles mate in mid to late spring in deep water. The male will nudge the female's head while swimming and if she chooses to mate, the male will swim above the female without clasping her with his claws(this is unlike other turtles). The turtle quickly lays her eggs along a sunny sandbar or gravel bank in a flask-shaped cavity that she has dug close to the water. The turtle nests more than once during a single season. She can lay between 9 to 38 round calcareous-shelled eggs. The eggs hatch around August and September and hatch in the spring. Sex is not determined by temperature variations in the spiny soft shell turtle.


* Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtle, Apalone spinifera aspera (Agassiz, 1857)
* Black Spiny Softshell Turtle, Apalone spinifera ater (Webb & Legler, 1960)
* Texas Spiny Softshell Turtle, Apalone spinifera emoryi (Agassiz, 1857)
* Guadalupe Spiny Softshell Turtle, Apalone spinifera guadalupensis (Webb, 1962)
* Western Spiny Softshell Turtle, Apalone spinifera hartwegi (Conant & Goin, 1941)
* Pallid Spiny Softshell Turtle, Apalone spinifera pallida (Webb, 1962)
* Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, Apalone spinifera spinifera (Lesueur, 1827)


* Species Apalone spinifera at The Reptile Database

* California Turtle & Tortoise Club: Softshell Turtles
* Spiny Softshell Turtle, Natural Resources Canada

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Source: Wikispecies, Wikipedia: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License


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