Testudines

Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles (Order Testudines)


Eastern Spiny Softshell

Family: Softshell Turtles (Trionychidae)

Common Name:

​Eastern Spiny Softshell 


Scientific Name:

Apalone s. spinifera​


Photo of Eastern Spiny Softshell courtesy of Linh Phu
Photo of Eastern Spiny Softshell courtesy of Linh Phu


Size:
8 inches (males) – 16 inches (females) Record: 17 inches

Appearance:

Photo of Eastern Spiny Softshell courtesy of Ed Thompson
Photo of Eastern Spiny Softshell courtesy of Ed Thompson

  • As its name implies, this turtle does not have hard scaley scutes. Instead, its flattened carapace (top shell) is leathery.

  • Small spines or tubercles are present on the front edge of the carapace, which also has a rough sandpapery feel.

  • The carapace is tan with black open circles.

  • The plastron (bottom shell) also lacks scutes and is creamy white to yellow.

  • The turtle's snout is elongated and tubular with large nostrils.


Habitats:

Primarily aquatic species, this turtle prefers rivers and tributaries in Western Maryland. Has been seen in ponds; prefers sandy substrates and aquatic vegetation.


Photo of Habitat for Eastern Spiny Softshell courtesy of Matt Sell.
Photo of Habitat for Eastern Spiny Softshell courtesy of Matt Sell.


How to Find:

This species is rare in Maryland, with a state listing of In Need of Conservation. If you see one, please contact the MD DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service.


Distribution in Maryland:

Only found in Garrett County.

Maryland Distribution Map for Eastern Spiny Softshell