The common musk turtle is a relatively small turtle with an average length of 8 to 14 cm(about 3 to 5 inches). The carapace is brown or black, and has a smooth, oval shape with a high dome. When these turtles are hatchlings, the carapace is usually black and rough. The skin is a dark-olive to black color, and there are two prominent yellow lines that run from the snout to the neck, one on either side of the eye. For both the male and female, there are barbels located on the chin and the underside of their rather long neck. These barbels on the throat are not found in other musk turtles. The male differs from the female in that he has a larger head, a long and stout tail with a spine, and areas of tilted scales on the insides of the rear legs. Males also have broad areas of skin showing between plastral scutes, whereas females have very small areas of skin in these spaces. (Grzimek 1975, Garrett and Barker 1987, Conant and Collins 1998, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).