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Midland Smooth Softshell Apalone mutica mutica


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Midland Smooth Softshell, female
credit: 2ndPeter/CCSA

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Family: Trionychidae, Softshell Turtles view all from this family

Description Male, 4 3/8-7" (11.1-17.8 cm); female, 6 5/8-14" (17-35.6 cm). Shell covered with soft leathery skin; smooth, without spines or bumps; olive to orange-brown, with low-contrast pattern of dots and dashes. Large females have mottled or blotched pattern on carapace. Pale stripes on snout in front of eyes; pale stripe behind eye with narrow dark borders. Nostrils round.

Breeding Lays eggs in cavity excavated in a sandbar.

Habitat Prefers rivers and large streams with moderate to fast currents and sandy or muddy bottoms. Infrequently found in lakes.

Range Drainage systems of the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, and Alabama rivers, from e. Ohio to w. Wisconsin, e. Minnesota, and sc. North Dakota, south to n. Alabama, s. Louisiana, and e. Texas; population in e. New Mexico. Formerly found east to w. Pennsylvania.

Discussion Strong swimmers, softshells cruise submerged, breathing through snorkel-like snouts. They like to bask near the shore, but are easily disturbed, and display great agility and speed in retreating to the safety of the water. Extreme care should be taken in handling softshells. The long neck and sharp jaws have surprised many a careless person.