Florida Softshell (Apalone ferox)

Photos by J.D. Willson unless otherwise noted

Description: Like other softshells, the Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) is a large, flat turtle with skin covering its shell (resembling a pancake). It is the bulkiest of the softshell turtles but inhabits the smallest range. It varies in size with males measuring from 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) and females measuring double that at 11-24 inches (28-61 cm). Adults are usually colored by a dark brown to brownish-gray with dark spots. Also there are usually small dark bumps on the carapace. In juveniles these dark bumps on the carapace are much more easily seen, as they are usually lighter in color than the adults. The carapace of the Florida softshell is covered with longitudinal rows of tubercles that resemble ridges in younger turtles but are less evident in larger turtles. In adult turtles the plastron of the shell usually extends farther than the carapace.

Range and Habitat: Ranging throughout Florida, southern Georgia and southeastern South Carolina, the Florida softshell turtle can be found in lakes, streams, canals, and roadside ditches. Of all the softshell turtles this is the one that is most likely to be found in a lake.

Habits: The diet of the Florida softshell turtle usually consists of snails and fish but these creatures have been known to eat waterfowl such as ducks and even small herons. They can occasionally be seen basking on sunny days.

Conservation Status: The Florida softshell turtle is quite abundant and not protected by Georgia state law or federal law. It is commercially harvested for food in some areas.

Pertinent Reference:
Webb, Robert G. 1973. Trionyx ferox (Schneider) Florida softshell turtle. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 138.1

Account Author: Andrew M. Grosse, University of Georgia – edited by J.D. Willson