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Spiny soft-shelled turtle (Apalone spinifera)
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.





=Western spiny soft-shelled turtle (Apalone spinifera hartwegi)
=Pallid spiny soft-shelled turtle (Apalone spinifera pallidus)
=Guadalupe spiny soft-shelled turtle (Apalone spinifera guadalupensis)
=Texas spiny soft-shelled turtle (Apalone spinifera emoryi)
Spiny soft-shelled turtles earn their common name due to a row of bumpy or sometimes spiny tubercles situated at the anterior portion of the carapace. 
Red ear sliders and Texas spiny soft shells (A. s. emoryi) share a basking site in the lower Rio Grande Valley
The big bright eyes of the Guadalupe spiny soft shell provide excellent vision which helps in finding mates, prey or noticing potential danger
An adult female Guadalupe soft shell from the San Saba River
Several adult female Pallid soft shells in the Trinity River swim while entertaining the notions of a present lone male
As competition for the male's attention intensifies a physical confrontation ensues
As competition for the male's attention intensifies a physical confrontation ensues
As competition for the male's attention intensifies a physical confrontation ensues while the male watches
The spines on the anterior edge f the carapace give the spiny soft shell its' namesake
Body form of an adult female spiny soft shell turtle exposed after a pond at Banworth Park in Mission, Texas was being drained
Body forms of an adult female spiny soft shell turtle exposed after a pond at Banworth Park in Mission, Texas was being drained
Banworth Park, Mission, Texas. Adult female Texas spiny soft shell. Notice the track pattern coming from and returning to the water
Fleshy lips covering a sharp beak are characteristic and only found among soft shell turtles
Some populations of spiny soft shells have spines that are more promine that others. Another character used to distinguish the spiny from the smooth soft shell is the partial septum in the nostrils
An old female Guadalupe soft shell that had survived a gunshot from more than 20 years earlier
Skull from adult female.
Skull from adult female.
Columnella bone used in hearing
Several spiny soft shell turtles at a public park in Grand Prairie have become accustomed to free food from park visitors
Notice the large female with a hook in her mouth attached by mono-filament line to a float. Turtles are very susceptible to baited fishing lines.
Notice the fishing hook in the mouth of this female spiny soft shell. Baited fishing lines pose a serious threat to turtles.
Head detail of 2 month old baby from the lower Rio Grande river valley
Ventral view of 2 month old baby. Notice the grayish blue tints, slight sign of umbilical scar and lack of developed calliosisities
A red ear slider (background) and a spiny soft shell turtle bask at Trading House Creek near the University of Texas at Arlington. The dark tone of this specimen is due to the dark muddy bottom of the creek
Museum specimens provide not only a wealth of information about the specimen/species that was collected, but in many ways insights into how that species interacts in its' environment. A cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorous) collected in the 1990s from Bosque County, Texas contained a few surprises.
Guadalupe spiny soft-shelled turtle (Apalone spiniferus guadalupensis). Texas: Travis County