Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by P. Dotson
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The spiny softshell, Apalone spinifera, is flat turtle that occurs throughout much of the central and eastern United States and Mexico. Populations of the spiny softshell also occur in the southwestern United States. Although the species currently exists in the Virgin River in extreme southwestern Utah, it is probably not native to the state.

In Utah, the spiny softshell is easy to identify because it is extremely flat, and its shell is covered with a leathery skin - it is not as hard as the shells of other turtles found in the state. The spiny softshell eats crayfish, mollusks, insects, fishes, amphibians, and plant material. The species lays eggs in early to mid-summer, and eggs hatch in the early fall. The spiny softshell is active during the day, and prefers rivers and ponds with mud or sand substrates. The species often catches its prey by burying itself in the substrate and remaining hidden until the prey item moves into range.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1985. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 336 pp.