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Western Spiny Softshell Apalone spinifera hartwegi


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Family: Trionychidae, Softshell Turtles view all from this family

Description Males 5-7 1/4" (12.7-18.5 cm); females 7-18" (18-45.7 cm). Shell covered with soft leathery skin; olive to tan, with tiny dots and black-bordered "eye spots" (dark marks may be absent in older females); 1 dark line around rim of shell. Spiny tubercles on shell's leading edge; 2 dark-bordered light stripes on each side of head. Nostrils have a lateral ridge extending from nasal septum.

Breeding Lays eggs in cavity excavated in sunny sand or gravel bank.

Habitat Mainly found in large, fast-flowing rivers and lakes; smaller and calmer bodies of water in eastern part of range.

Range Throughout c. United States as far west as the Continental Divide. Separate populations in Montana, s. Quebec, Delaware, and the Gila-Colorado River system of New Mexico and Utah. S. Minnesota and sw. Wisconsin south to n. Alabama and Louisiana, west across Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska to se. Wyoming, e. Colorado and ne. New Mexico; separate population in Missouri River drainage in Montana.

Discussion This subspecies of Spiny Softshell is distinguished by the smallness of the dots on its carapace, as well as its geographical range. It overlaps with the Eastern and Gulf Coast subspecies on the eastern edge of its range and with the Pallid to the south.