Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles (Order Testudines)

Family Trionychidae

Eastern Spiny Softshell
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

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

Appearance

  • 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

     

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.