Florida softshell turtles (Apalone ferox) are a reptilian species with a highly specific geographic scope -- exclusively the southeastern region of the United States. They are prevalent not only in Florida, which their names show, but also in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. These predominantly aquatic softshell turtles are sexually dimorphic, and male and female specimens are easy to distinguish.
Florida Softshell Turtle Basic Information
Florida softshell turtles are sizable creatures that generally reside in freshwater environments. They gravitate toward water that is rather sluggish, with turbid or gritty floors. They are also prevalent in coastal locales. Other typical settings for the species are wetlands, swamps, canals, streams, lakes and ponds. Florida softshell turtles are heavy meat eaters, and some of their favorite forms of sustenance include water bugs, fishes, crustaceans, snakes, snails and even birds. They sometimes feast on fellow turtles, but of tinier varieties.
At maturity, female Florida softshell turtles are significantly bigger than the boys. The females are usually twice as long, with average heights of close to 2 feet. The males, on the other hand, usually get to around 1 foot.
The tails of male and female Florida softshell turtles also look completely different. Although the females are larger than the males, their tails are a lot smaller and don't go out much further than the edge of their upper shells. The males, however, possess lengthy, wide tails that jut out much further than their upper shells.
Reproductive Maturity Size
When female Florida softshell turtles attain reproductive maturity, their plastrons (the underside of their shells) are at least 8 inches in length. For the males, that figure is often around 6 inches, although it sometimes can be even shorter.
Overall Physical Appearance
Although male and female Florida softshell turtles have a couple key physical differences, they also share a lot of elements too. Their upper shells are greenish-yellow or deep brown, although their plastrons are white or grayish. These shells also generally have rough and lumpy textures full of blots. Their noses are memorable, with extended and circular forms at the ends, reminiscent of pigs. Florida softshell turtles have webbed feet.
- ReptileChannel.com: Florida Softshell Turtle Reptiles
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Apalone Ferox
- Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: Florida Softshell Turtle
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Florida Softshell
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Florida Softshelled Turtle
- South Carolina Department of Natural Resources: Freshwater Turtles
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images