Florida Softshell
(Apalone ferox)

Description: As the name suggests, Softshell turtles have a large flat shell that are covered in skin giving it a soft appearance and leathery feel. They have webbed feet, a long neck, and a snorkel-like nose tip — all features that aid a fully aquatic life style. The Florida Softshelled Turtle is the largest of all North American Softshell turtles with males growing to 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) and females double in size at 11-24 inches (28-61 cm). Their shell is notably longer than it is wide. Adults are usually dark gray or brown with faint mottling above, and a pale cream color below. Juveniles are much brighter in color with more distinct mottling and yellowish markings on the edges and face.

Natural History: The Florida Softshell Turtle lives an almost fully aquatic life in permanent wetlands such as ponds, swamps, and slow-moving rivers. They will generally bury their body in silty substrate or may move along the bottom and consume aquatic invertebrates and mollusks. Occasionally on sunny days they may be observed basking along the banks. These turtles will awkwardly move short distances from wetlands during nesting season in spring and early summer.

Similar Species: The Florida Softshell Turtle is very similar in appearance to other Softshells (Apalone sp.), but can be distinguished with shell that is notably longer than it is wide and a darker overall color. See Spiny Softshell account for more information. 

Distribution: This turtle is found throughout Florida and the southern most portions of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

Contributed by Jake Zadik (02/20/2020)