IDENTIFICATION: The carapace is flattened in overall appearance with a ridge-like series of tubercles on the anterior edge. Juveniles bear the strongest pattern consisting of dark spots and a light colored border on the edge of the carapace. While the spotting can be found among males they are reduced to blotches in mature females. Because of the reduction of bony elements in the carapace the edges of the carapace are the softest and most pliable portions of the shell. This is most evident in fully grown individuals when the edges of the carapace appear fleshlike and drapped over the shell. The neck is long, head slender and nose long and snorkel-like with a fleshy ridge present inside each nostril. The feet are fully webbed and the plastron is also fleshy and cartilagenous zones between the plastral bones are easilly noticed.
BEHAVIOR AND ECOLOGY: Soft-shelled turtles are almost entirely aquatic powerful swimmers, fond of basking and rarely venture far from aquatic margins. However, females seeking suitable nesting locations sometimes wander considerable distances from water in search of ideal nesting locations. Within their geographic distribution spiny soft shell turtles can be found in streams, rivers, oxbows, lakes , lagoons, water filled ditches and coastal areas. Softshell turtles are carnivorous and will hunt down or use ambush tactics to secure prey which includes but is not limited to: insects, crayfish, tadpoles, frogs, fishes and other small vertebrates. Aquatic vegetation has been found in the stomachs of museum specimens. However, the vegetation contained snails and were likely ingested secondarilly to the turtle's pursuit of the snails. When not basking out of the water or swimming about, soft shelled turtles can be found below the surface on the bottom concealed beneath a layer of sand or other substratum. Usually only the eyes or part of the head is exposed.
Females are known to be fecund producing more than one clutch per year containing as many as 32 spherical hard-shelled eggs per clutch. Softshell turtles are capable of defending themselves by clawing, and scratching.while trying to make an escape. They are capable of making short yet quick burst of speed on land. They can also deliver a painful bite to a careless handler with their sharp cusp.
4 Subspecies of spiny soft-shelled turtle inhabit Texas.