Spiny Softshell

Apalone spinifera 

Identification Photo by A. Barett. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.)

Spiny Softshells have a flat, smooth, leathery carapace (shell covering the back) that does not have scutes. The carapace (shell covering the belly) is gray-brown with dark spots or rings. They get their name from the tiny soft spines on the anterior margin of their carapace. The plastron is narrow and pale yellow or white. The females carapace can be 10-19 inches long, while the males carapace is only 5-10 inches long. Softshells have a very long neck and a thin tubular snout. Their skin is tan or olive with black markings. They have two light stripes on the side of their face.

Records in Vermont of Apalone sinifera (Spiny Softshell)

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Range/Habitat

Softshells are entirely aquatic and are very fast in the water. They also bask often. In Vermont they are found only in the Northeast corner of Lake Champlain near the Lamoille and Missisquoi River deltas.

Status

This species has a state natural heritage rank of S1 (very rare). The Spiny Softshell has been designated a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (high priority) in Vermont’s Wildlife Action Plan, and is threatened in Vermont. Please report all sightings of this species in Vermont. Take photos if possible. Even historic sighting information is useful.

Additional Photos

Photo by Kiley Briggs. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.)  Photo by Jay Plotkin. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.) Photo by Kiley Briggs. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.)   Photo by Joshua Lincoln. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.) Photo by Ron Haskell. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.) Photo by Greg Van Buiten. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.) Photo by Kris Andrews. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.) Photo by Kristen Bachand. (All photos on this site are © copyright to the photographer and used by permission.)

More Info

Species summary written by Ariel K. McK. Burgess.

Baby Softshell Turtles

Video by ECHO Lake Aquarium.

Diving with Turtles

December 2012: Adam Kane, Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, gives a commentary on Vermont Public Radio. Read the transcript, watch the video, or listen to the podcast at http://www.vpr.net/episode/54936/kane-diving-for-turtles/

Video by Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, copyright ©2012.