Kinosternidae – Mud turtles

Small but bitey! They can capture anything that gets close enough to their powerful jaws

They are native to North and Central America, with a range extending from southern Canada through the Eastern United States down to northern South America.

Musk turtles, often called “stinkpots,” have acquired their moniker from their ability to excrete a pungent, musky odor from glands on the edges of their shells. This defense mechanism is particularly effective against predators, deterring them from seeing the turtle as a potential meal.

Their close relatives, the mud turtles, spend considerable amounts of time buried in the mud at the bottoms of water bodies. This behavior not only aids in camouflage but also helps them ambush prey and avoid extremes of temperature or drought.

These turtles typically inhabit slow-moving or still bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, marshes, and slow-flowing streams. They prefer waters with soft, muddy bottoms that facilitate their burrowing behavior. Such environments are rich in aquatic vegetation, providing food and cover.

Despite being aquatic, musk and mud turtles are not particularly adept swimmers compared to other turtles. They tend to walk along the bottom rather than swim through the water. Their movements are deliberate and slow, which makes sense for their lifestyle, which focuses on ambush hunting rather than an active pursuit.

These turtles are also known for their hardy nature and ability to survive in variable conditions, so they are sometimes chosen as pets. However, their popularity in the pet trade, habitat destruction, and pollution have led to declines in some natural populations. Conservation efforts are crucial to ensure their survival, including habitat protection and regulation of the pet trade.