Wildlife and Invasive Species Education (WISE) Species Profile: The Florida Softshell Turtle
Common Name: Florida Softshell
Scientific Name: Apalone ferox
Identification: The shell of this species is leathery in texture. The carapace does not have any markings, unlike the juveniles. Young softshell turtles have large spots on the shell. Softshell turtles have long necks and tubular shaped snouts. Softshell turtles have webbed feet and are very powerful swimmers. Adults can reach 30 inches and may weigh over 100 lbs. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, females being a larger size than males.
Description: The Florida Softshell is found throughout the state. You will see these turtles in ponds, lakes and other bodies of slow moving water. Turtles are cold-blooded animals so you will see them basking in the sun. Basking can occur on the bank or on a fallen log. Like other softshell turtles, they burrow in the soil along the bank. The Florida softshell is a univoltine species, producing one clutch a year. The eggs of the Florida Softshell are round and hard. Clutch size varies, but the average is between 10 to 40 eggs.
Diet: Being a carnivorous generalist, the Florida Softshell is not picky. Prey could include apple snails, fish, snakes, and small birds.
Interesting Facts: Harvested for food in Florida.
References: “Florida’s Native Turtles” Dr. Steve Johnson, University of Florida Associate Professor from the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
“2020 Year of the Turtle – the softshells”, Rick O’Connor, UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County Sea Grant Agent http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/nat/2020/02/20/2020-year-of-the-turtle-the-softshells/
“Florida Softshell (Apalone ferox), Andrew M. Grosse, University of Georgia https://srelherp.uga.edu/turtles/apafer.htm
Visit the Florida Museum to view photos of turtles found in Florida https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/herpetology/florida-amphibians-reptiles/turtles
Cover Photo Credit: Jim E. Davis