Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle
Apalone spinifera spinifera
• Peak Breeding Activity: May-August
• Number of offspring: 4-32
• Young Fledge: August-October
• Typical Foods: various macroinvertebrates such as aquatic insects, crayfish, and occasionally a fish
The spiny softshell's body, instead of being protected by bony plates, has a tough, rubbery covering. At the front of the carapace is a row of small, conical spines that account for the name "spiny."
Habitat and Habits
Although it can be found in lakes and smaller streams, the Eastern spiny softshell is essentially a river turtle. It prefers relatively shallow water with a sand or soft mud bottom. A common habit of the softshell is to settle on the bottom by rocking from side to side, while flipping sand and mud up onto its back, completely burying itself. Usually it lies just deep enough for its long, pointed snout to reach the surface for air. However, the softshell does not have to get air from the surface. While it is submerged, it pumps water in and out of its mouth and pharynx. The highly vascular lining of the pharynx removes oxygen from the water and expels carbon dioxide into it.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
The female lays her eggs in a cavity in a bank of sand or gravel that is exposed to full sunlight. Unlike other Ohio turtles, the sex of Eastern spiny softshells is not dependent on the temperature at which the eggs develop.