The Common Musk Turtle is a relatively small turtle with an average length of 8 to 14 cm(about 3 to 5 inches). The carapace is brown or black, and has a smooth, oval shape with a high dome. When these turtles are hatchlings, the carapace is usually black and rough. The skin is a dark-olive to black color, and there are two prominent yellow lines that run from the snout to the neck, one on either side of the eye. For both the male and female, there are barbels located on the chin and the underside of their rather long neck. These barbels on the throat are not found in other musk turtles. The male differs from the female in that he has a larger head, a long and stout tail with a spine, and areas of tilted scales on the insides of the rear legs. Males also have broad areas of skin showing between plastral scutes, whereas females have very small areas of skin in these spaces.
A record from Wallace County (KU 3028) exists, and is undoubtedly in error. Grant (1937) states that "numbers of these turtles were observed in the turtle traps" at the State Fish Hatchery in Pratt on 29 August 1929. Currently, no specimens are known from Pratt County.
The habitat of the common musk turtle includes any kind of permanent body of water, like shallow streams, ponds, rivers, or clear water lakes, and it is rare to find the turtle elsewhere. While in the water, this musk turtle stays mainly in shallow areas. Sometimes it can be found basking on nearby fallen tree trunks or in the branches of trees overhanging the water.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences)
Allen (1), Anderson (1), Bourbon (1), Cherokee (12), Cowley (3), Crawford (5), Douglas (8), Elk (1), Franklin (1), Greenwood (2), Johnson (2), Labette (2), Leavenworth (2), Linn (3), Miami (7), Montgomery (13), Neosho (1), Wallace (1), Wilson (1), Woodson (3), Wyandotte (1)
The female common musk turtle is known to dig shallow nests at the water's edge under rotting logs or dead leaves, and sometimes these turtles will nest two or more times a year. Communal nesting also occurs frequently within this species. The turtles mate underwater, and then the female lay one to nine eggs sometime between February and June. The hatchlings emerge 60 to 84 days later.
The most prominent behavior of the common musk turtle is its defensive tactic. When disturbed, this turtle will quickly release a foul-smelling liquid from its musk glands. This kind of defense earned the musk turtle the nickname of "stinkpot". Also, the male is particularly aggressive and will not think twice about biting. Another unique behavior the nocturnal Common Musk Turtle exhibits while foraging is that they walk on the bottom of the stream or pond instead of swimming like other turtles.
Food Habits: Sternotherus oderatus is somewhat of a food generalist, as it is known to eat small amounts of plants, mollusks, small fish, insects, and even carrion. Foraging on the muddy bottom of streams or ponds is the chief way of collecting food
Growth and Longevity:
KU 45016, Linn County, William L. Minckley, 10 September 1957, carapace length 114 mm (4.5 inches), Collins (1993).
The species was first described by the French taxonomist Pierre André Latreille in 1802, from a specimen collected near Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, almost all turtles were classified in the genus Testudo, and he gave it the name Testudo odorata. In 1825, John Edward Gray created the genus Sternotherus to include species of musk turtle and it became Sternotherus odoratus. The species has been redescribed numerous times by many authors, leading to a large amount of confusion in its classification. To confuse it further, the differences between mud turtles and musk turtles are a point of debate, with some researchers considering them the same genus, Kinosternon.
Pleistocene fossils are known from Meade and Ellsworth counties. Both of these records are outside the current distribution of this species.
Not a target species for this project. However, all records will be kept.
1937. Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist. 18(3): pp. 370-372.
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.