Adult Florida softshell turtles have bumpy, leathery, oblong carapaces with dark brown to olive green colors and a gray to white plastron. Both the carapace and plastron lack scutes. The carapace has longitudinal rows of indentations and raised areas on the dorsal surface. On the thickened edge of the anterior portion of the carapace there is a series of wide, short tubercles in a crescent shape. Short tubercles also cover the sides of the forelimbs. Carapace tubercles on Florida softshell turtles are flattened hemispheres instead of the cone-shaped projections seen in the sympatric Gulf Coast Softshell, Apalone spinifera aspera. Bones underlying the plastron can sometimes be seen through the leathery skin covering. The carapace occasionally has faint irregular blotches left over from the juvenile pattern. A yellow to red stripe sometimes is present from each eye to the base of the lower jaw. The tubular, pig-like nose is truncated with each nostril having a lateral ridge projecting from the nasal septum. All four feet are webbed; webbing extends up the shank of the hind legs. This species is bulky and the largest of all New World trionychids. Sexual dimorphism is marked, with females much larger than males. Adult females are usually between 28 and 63 centimeters in carapace length (record 73.6 cm), with short tails that barely extend beyond the carapace rim. Males are usually between 15 and 33 centimeters in carapace length, with long, thick tails with the anal vent well beyond the carapace rim.
Juveniles have more contrasting color patterns than adults. The carapace is olive, tan, or light brown with darker brown or black spots and a yellow marginal rim. The plastron is dark purplish gray to black. The snout and neck are marked with yellow or orange stripes. The snout is marked with a Y shaped figure on the anterior edge, reaching from each eye down the middle of the nose.
Range mass: 43.6 (high) kg.
Range length: 15 to 73.6 cm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes shaped differently
- Bartlett, R., P. Bartlett. 2006. Guide and Reference to the Crocodilians, Turtles, and Lizards of Eastern and Central North America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
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