Spiny Soft-shelled Turtle (Gulf Coast)
Apalone spinifera aspera

CLASS: Reptilia
ORDER: Chelonia
FAMILY: Trionychidae

Reaches 21.25 inch carapace length

North America; found throughout Louisiana

Lakes, oxbows, lagoons, and borrow pits as well as sandy or muddy pool or river bottom

Wild - Fish, frogs, tadpoles, dead rodents and other carrion; Young eat insects, crickets, locusts, etc.

Zoo - Fish, meat

Lack the typical bony appearance of most turtles; shell does exist in a reduced form beneath a leathery covering; shell has no horny scutes. Carapace usually gritty feeling because of numerous small projections; the anterior edge with conical projections or spines. Flat and pancake-like in appearance.

Males are smaller in size. Carapace is olive, brown, or putty colored. Males and juveniles have dark circular markings. Females' marks become indistinct with age and carapace becomes more blotchy.


  • Aquatic in habit, emerging only to lay eggs in some cases.

  • Remain motionless in sandy or muddy pool or river bottom until food happens by. They will search out and eat carrion.

  • Rarely emerge to bask in sun.

  • Long sinuous neck is rapidly shot out to grab prey.

  • Snout extended in tubular form; opening of nostril with an internal ridge projecting from the septum.

  • Toes extensively webbed and equipped with long claws.

  • Although soft-shells have a reputation for quick tempers and sharp jaws, most captives seem to become quite placid.

Nesting occurs from May to August. Females produce clutches of 4 - 32 eggs. probably several times a year. Eggs are spherical and hard-shelled.


"The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana," Harold A. Dundee and Douglas A. Rossman
"The Care of Reptiles and Amphibians in Cativity," Revised 2nd Edition, Chris Mattison