Eastern Spiny Softshell

Apalone spinifera spinifera

Eastern Spiny Softshell
Photo by Eric Williams

Description:  The Eastern Spiny Softshell ranges in size from 5-17 inches.  The carapace (upper shell) is leathery and olive to brown in color with spiny or bumpy projections.  A male's carapace has eye spots (ocelli), while the female's carapace has dark blotches.  The plastron (lower shell) is hingeless.  The feet are strongly patterned with stripes and spots.  Each nostril has a ridge on the inner portion.

Habitat:  Found primarily in rivers, but can be found in lakes, oxbows and sloughs.

Behavior:  The spiny softshell spends most of its time in water, although it will climb onto sandy bars to bask.  The are extremely alert and will head for water at the slightest movement.  Sex of young is not temperature-dependent.  Spiny softshells are primarily carnivorous, feeding on insects, mollusks, crayfish and fish.

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