Know your Michigan Turtles: Spiny Soft-shell Turtle

Soft Shell Attracts Seed Pods

Soft Shell Attracts Seed Pods, photo by David Mayer

One of the most popular posts on Michigan in Pictures is Know Your Michigan Turtles where we now have 8 of Michigan’s 10 turtle species profiled. You can click that link for the list of all of them and read on to learn about the soft shell turtle.

The Spiny Soft-shell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera) entry at the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web says that:

Apalone spinifera inhabits various freshwater systems such as rivers, lakes, marshes, farm ponds as well as bays of the Great Lakes . Apalone spinifera prefers open habitats with a small amount of vegetation and a sandy or muddy bottom and require sandy raised nesting areas close to water.

…Spiny softshell turtles are diurnal animals, spending most of the day basking in the sun and foraging for food. They can be spotted sunning on logs and river banks. If disturbed, they will quickly retreat into the water and bury themselves in sand, leaving only their heads visible. These turtles are also able to breathe underwater for extended periods through their pharyngeal lining, cloacal lining, and skin. Spiny softshell turtles spend October to April in the water buried underneath substrate in a state of dormancy.

Apalone spinifera preys on on various macroinvertebrates such as aquatic insects, crayfish, and occasionally a fish. They find their food underneath objects, along the floor of the lake, and in vegetation. They also hide in the floor substrate and grab prey as they swim by.

Spiny softshell turtle nests are often destroyed by raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Young softshell turtles are eaten by raccoons, herons, and fish. Adults are killed and eaten only by humans, they have few natural predators. When bothered, spiny softshell turtles will extend their long necks and snap viciously at their attacker, inflicting a painful bite. They are wary and can hide themselves quickly.

Read on for a whole lot more including photos.

David says to be sure to check out the seed pod copter on this turtle’s face! View it background big and see more in his Wildlife slideshow.

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