Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Florida softshell turtle

By MSA 2005 Map showing lakes, ponds, canals, slow rivers habitats in Florida and southern Georgia, U.S.


Class Reptilia
Order: Chelonia
Family: Trionychidae
Genus and species: Apalone ferox

The Florida softshell turtle gets its name from the tough, leathery skin covering that extends over its shell. While this makes the shell appear soft, it is actually a bone-hard shell just like other turtles underneath the covering.

With females reaching almost 24 inches in length, the Florida softshell is the largest of all the North American softshell turtles. Males generally only reach 12 inches in length.

Florida softshells are mostly aquatic animals, rarely emerging from the water. They are not picky eaters and will feast on almost anything that can be found in water: fish, snails, insects, amphibians, carrion, crayfish, waterfowl, and some plant material.

Females can lay several clutches of eggs in a year. Each clutch can contain anywhere from four to 38 eggs, with an average clutch size of around 20. The eggs are laid in a nest several inches deep and incubate for 60 to 70 days.

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