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Softshell Turtles: Trionychidae

Physical Characteristics

From above, softshell turtles look almost like rubber dinner plates swimming through the water. Although the turtles actually have a bony upper shell, it is completely covered by leathery skin, which usually reaches out past the edge of the bone and overlaps the tail and feet. The upper shell, or carapace (KARE-a-pays), is flat and often round. The turtles also have a tube-like snout and a long neck that they can pull in or extend out. Their webbed front feet each have three claws. A few species have flap-like hinges on the lower shell, or plastron (PLAS-trun), below the hind legs. Softshell turtles can be big or small, depending on the species. The smallest has a carapace that only measures up to 5 inches (12 centimeters) long, while the largest has a carapace ten times that length and sometimes more. In addition, most of them have a one-color carapace, but a few have stripes or spots. Sometimes, young turtles are more colorful. Usually, the males have longer tails than the females do. In some species, the males are smaller than the females, and/or more colorful.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesSoftshell Turtles: Trionychidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Spiny Softshell (apalone Spinifera): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, SOFTSHELL TURTLES AND PEOPLE