Spiny turtle

The thorny devil of the turtles

Bernard DUPONT

It stands out as one of the most distinctive freshwater turtles in the United States due to its unique physiological adaptations and considerable size. These turtles are aptly named for the small spines that adorn the forward edge of their carapaces, which are not typical of most turtle species. Contrary to the hard, rigid shells commonly associated with turtles, the spiny softshell has a pliable, leathery carapace, allowing for greater mobility and a more hydrodynamic form in its aquatic environment.

One of the most remarkable features of the spiny softshell turtle is its webbed feet, which are highly adapted for an aquatic lifestyle. These fully webbed appendages act as powerful paddles, enabling the turtle to navigate through water with speed and agility. This adept swimming ability allows the spiny softshell to spend most of its life submerged, coming to land predominantly to bask and lay eggs.

With a lifespan that can extend to an average of 50 years, spiny softshell turtles demonstrate significant longevity. However, while adult turtles enjoy a relative respite from predation due to their size and speed, juvenile turtles are not as fortunate. Young spiny softshells are vulnerable to various predators, including raccoons, foxes, birds, and fish.

Human activities have imposed additional pressure on the populations of these remarkable turtles. The pet trade has created a demand for spiny softshell turtles, often resulting in their removal from the wild. Additionally, they are sought after for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in certain cultures. This exploitation for commercial purposes poses a significant threat to their survival.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Brunei
2018
Indonesia
2018
Kalimantan, Sumatera
Malaysia
2018
Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak
Myanmar
2018
Philippines
2018
Singapore
2018
Thailand
2018

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No