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Species Description

Spiny Softshell

Apalone spinifera

Species Image


Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Family: Trionychidae


Carapace is olive to greenish brown. Adults of the Spiny Softshell average from 125 - 432 mm (5 - 17 in) in carapace length. males are smaller than females, not over 235 mm (9.25 in) in carapace length. The leathery carapace is flattened and lacks the scutes of other turtles. The leading edge of the carapace is covered with spine-like tubercles. The head and snout are elongated, and the snout is tube-like in appearance.

Life Cycle

After mating in April or May, the female lays 4 - 39 eggs in loose soil. Hatching occurs in August through October.

Natural History

This is one of the most aquatic of all our turtles and seldom ventures out of the water except to bask on sandbars or mud banks. This large turtle prefers swift flowing rivers and streams but will occasionally be found in oxbow lakes, marshy creeks, and bayous. It is strictly carnivorous and feeds on crayfish, fish, aquatic insects, worms, mussels, and snails. Adults have few natural predators, but the young are eaten by wading birds, snapping turtles, and large fish, and the eggs are eaten by raccoons and skunks.


Spiny Softshell Region Map This species occurs from South Carolina west to Texas and north up the Missouri River system to Montana and the Dakotas, then east to western New York. In Georgia it can be found throughout the state except in the mountains and the south-central portion of the state.

Conservation Status

Spiny Softshells can be captured in the state of Georgia at any time of year. This abundant species is trapped for food by people who consider the meat of this turtle to be a delicacy.

Similar Species

The Florida Softshell has flattened bumps on the carapace, not spine-like projections.