The Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera, formerly Trionyx spiniferus) is a species of softshelled turtle, one of the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. They get their name from the spiny, cone-like projections on the leading edge of their carapace, which are not scutes (scales).
This species is found in rivers, streams, and larger ponds and resevoirs statewide in Kansas but is least abundant on the Western Plains.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences)
Allen (1), Anderson (2), Barber (6), Barton (3), Bourbon (1), Brown (2), Butler (1), Chase (2), Chautauqua (5), Cherokee (10), Cheyenne (2), Clark (3), Comanche (3), Cowley (10), Doniphan (5), Douglas (13), Elk (1), Ellis (23), Ellsworth (1), Franklin (3), Greenwood (3), Hamilton (1), Harper (5), Harvey (1), Hodgeman (2), Jefferson (1), Kingman (4), Kiowa (4), Labette (7), Lane (4), Linn (1), Logan (3), Marion (1), Meade (4), Mitchell (1), Montgomery (9), Morris (1), Nemaha (1), Neosho (1), Ness (2), Osage (3), Osborne (1), Pawnee (5), Pratt (4), Reno (1), Riley (2), Rooks (4), Rush (1), Russell (4), Sedgwick (3), Seward (4), Shawnee (2), Stafford (3), Sumner (3), Trego (7), Wabaunsee (2), Wilson (2), Woodson (1)
The Spiny Softshell Turtle becomes sexually mature between ages 8 and 10. A large female turtle may live up to 50 years. The turtles mate in mid to late spring in deep water. The male will nudge the female's head while swimming and if she chooses to mate, the male will swim above the female without clasping her with his claws(this is unlike other turtles). The turtle quickly lays her eggs along a sunny sandbar or gravel bank in a flask-shaped cavity that she has dug close to the water. The turtle nests more than once during a single season. She can lay between 9 to 38 round calcareous-shelled eggs. The eggs hatch around August and September and hatch in the spring. Sex is not determined by temperature variations in the spiny soft shell turtle.
Often seen basking on logs. Readily bites. Its sharp-edged jaws, hidden beneath the fleshy lips, can deliver a painful wound.
Feeds on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and fish. May actively forage for prey or bury itself in the sand to wait for unwary animals to come within striking range.
Growth and Longevity:
KU 197330, Kingman County, Richard Keller and Ralph Massoth, Jr., 10 September 1984, carapace length 523 mm (20.5 inches), Collins (1993).
The species was first described by Charles Alexandre Lesueur in 1827. It has been redescribed numerous times, leading to some confusion in its taxonomy. There are now seven recognized subspecies, which vary primarily by geography, and are not easily distinguishable from one another.
Pleistocene fossil specimens have been reported from Ellsworth County.
Many western Kansas streams have reduced or absent surface flow due to the extensive use of water for irrigation. It is unknown what effect this is having on populations of our most aquatic turtle species.
1974. Collins, Joseph T.. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Public Education Series. (1): pp. 283 pp.
1982. Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles in Kansas, 2nd Edition. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence. Pp. 356.
1993. Collins, Joseph T. Amphibians and Reptiles of Kansas. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Lawrence. Pp. 397.