Wild Guide

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From Missouri Conservationist: June 2018

Eastern Spiny Softshell | Apalone spinifera spinifera

  • Status - Harvest is controlled to maintain healthy populations.
  • Size - Upper shell length: 5–9¼ inches (males); 7–17 inches (females)
  • Distribution - Found throughout the eastern half of the state

Did You Know?

Spiny softshells are defensive and have strong jaws. They will try to bite when captured. With its long, tubular, snorkellike snout and webbed toes, the spiny softshell is well equipped for an aquatic life. This species inhabits rivers and streams, lakes, and large ponds. It prefers habitats with muddy or sandy surfaces.

  • Life Cycle - Active from March to October, the spiny softshell escapes winter’s cold temperatures by digging 2–4 inches into the mud at the bottom of a river or lake. Courtship and mating occurs in April and May, and eggs are laid from late May through July. Females lay four to 32 eggs in a nest on a sand or gravel bar or a sandy opening near water. These hatch from late August to October.
  • Foods - Spiny softshell turtles eat a variety of aquatic animals, including crayfish, insects, snails, tadpoles, and fish.
  • Ecosystem Connections - Although softshells may prey upon nearly any species of fish, there is no evidence to show they harm fish populations in natural waters. Like other components of our native aquatic ecosystems, they contribute to the balance of nature.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler