Eastern Spiny Softshell

Trionychidae (softshells) in the order Testudines (turtles)

This medium to large turtle has dark spots on the limbs, a small ridge on each side of the snorkel-like snout and numerous small bumps or spines on the front of the upper shell (see below). Coloration of the upper shell varies with age and sex. Adult males and young turtles have an olive or grayish-tan upper shell with distinct, small black dots and circles and a black line along the margin. Adult females have a dark olive or tan upper shell with brown and gray blotches. The lower shell is a plain cream color. Head and limbs are normally tan or olive with small brown or black markings. A yellow line, bordered by black, extends from the snout through the eye and along each side of the head.

Adult males’ upper shell length ranges from 5 to 9 ¼ inches; females’ shell ranges from 7 to 17 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
This species inhabits large rivers, lakes and large ponds. A muddy or sandy bottom is preferred.
It eats a variety of aquatic animals, including fish, but is not a threat to Missouri’s game fish population.
Distribution in Missouri: 
The eastern spiny softshell is found in the eastern part of the state, but it intergrades and eventually is replaced by the western spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera hartwegi) in central and western Missouri.