Overview

Distribution

Sternotherus odoratus, or the common musk turtle, is a widespread and abundant species that can be found along the coast of the eastern United States from the northeastern states down into Florida. Their range extends west to the Great Lakes region, through Illinois, to western Kansas and Oklahoma and reaches its western most distribution in central Texas. This musk turtle occurs further north than all of the other musk turtles. (Grzimek 1975, Whitfield 1984, Conant and Collins 1998, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Range Description

Eastern and Central United States (Maine to southern Wisconsin, Texas and Florida) and southeastern Canada (southeastern Ontario and adjoining extreme southern Quebec) (Iverson 1992, Ernst et al. 1994).

A single record from Rio Sauz, Sauz, Chihuahua, Mexico, considered by Smith and Smith (1979) to possibly pertain to a naturally extinct population, was considered invalid by Iverson (1992).
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: Throughout the eastern U.S.; New England, southern Ontario, and southern Quebec (Chabot and St-Hilaire 1991) south to Florida and west to Wisconsin and central Texas; scattered records from south-central Kansas, western Texas, and Chihuahua, Mexico (Ernst and Barbour 1989).

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Geographic Range

Sternotherus_odoratus, or the common musk turtle, is a widespread and abundant species that can be found along the coast of the eastern United States from the northeastern states down into Florida. Their range extends west to the Great Lakes region, through Illinois, to western Kansas and Oklahoma and reaches its western most distribution in central Texas. This musk turtle occurs further north than all of the other musk turtles. (Grzimek 1975, Whitfield 1984, Conant and Collins 1998, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Continent: Middle-America North-America
Distribution: Canada (S Ontario, Quebec),  USA (New England, coastal Maine, S New Hampshire, Vermont, S New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, SE Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, S Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, E Kansas, E Oklahoma, C/E Texas),  Mexico (Chihuahua)  
Type locality: "les eaux dormantes de la Caroline"; restricted to "vicinity of Charleston, South Carolina," U.S.A., by Schmidt (1953:87).
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Physical Description

Morphology

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).

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Physical Description

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).

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Size

Length: 14 cm

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Type Information

Syntype for Sternotherus odoratus
Catalog Number: USNM 7890
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Medina River, Medina, Texas, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Agassiz, L. 1857. Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America, Volume 1, Part 2, North American Testudinata. 1: 425.
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Syntype for Sternotherus odoratus
Catalog Number: USNM 71
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: San Pedro, near San Antonia, Bexar, Texas, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Agassiz, L. 1857. Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America, Volume 1, Part 2, North American Testudinata. 1: 425.
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Syntype for Sternotherus odoratus
Catalog Number: USNM 69
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: San Pedro, near San Antonia, Bexar, Texas, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Agassiz, L. 1857. Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America, Volume 1, Part 2, North American Testudinata. 1: 425.
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Syntype for Sternotherus odoratus
Catalog Number: USNM 72
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: San Pedro, near San Antonia, Bexar, Texas, United States, North America
  • Syntype: Agassiz, L. 1857. Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America, Volume 1, Part 2, North American Testudinata. 1: 425.
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Ecology

Habitat

The habitat of the common musk turtle includes any kind of permanent body of water, like shallow streams, ponds, rivers, or clear water lakes, and it is rare to find the turtle elsewhere. While in the water, this musk turtle stays mainly in shallow areas. Sometimes it can be found basking on nearby fallen tree trunks or in the branches of trees overhanging the water (Garrett 1987, Conant and Collins 1998, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Sternotherus odoratus inhabit a wide variety of flowing and standing waterbodies, including deep water (up to 9 m), but does not tolerate saline water. Sternotherus odoratus are preferentially carnivorous omnivores, with a preference for feeding on molluscs.

Males and females reach up to 14 cm carapace length (CL), though averaging 7-10 cm; maximum size and sexual dimorphism show geographic trends. Maturity is reached in 2-7 years / 50-65 mm CL (males) and 3-11 years / 62-85 mm in females, depending on location. Longevity of over 54 years has been demonstrated in captivity, while longevity in the wild has been estimated at 20-30 years. Generation time has not been calculated.

Females produce one to six clutches of about two to four (range one to nine) eggs, depending on location. Incubation usually takes 60-107 days (range 56-132), depending on location. Hatchlings measure 17-26 mm (reviews in Iverson and Meshaka 2006, Ernst and Lovich 2009).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Comments: Inhabits virtually any permanent body of freshwater having a slow current and soft bottom. May bask on tree limbs well above water. Hibernates in bottom mud or debris, under rocks, or in holes in banks; may congregate when hibernating. Eggs are laid up to about 50 m (average 7 m in Pennsylvania) from water in soil; under logs, stumps, and vegetable debris; and in walls of muskrat houses; sometimes on open ground. Hatchlings may overwinter in nest.

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The habitat of the common musk turtle includes any kind of permanent body of water, like shallow streams, ponds, rivers, or clear water lakes, and it is rare to find the turtle elsewhere. While in the water, this musk turtle stays mainly in shallow areas. Sometimes it can be found basking on nearby fallen tree trunks or in the branches of trees overhanging the water (Garrett 1987, Conant and Collins 1998, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Home range averaged 0.05 ha or less in Oklahoma (Mahmoud 1969), about 1.75 ha in males and 0.94 ha in females in Pennsylvania (Ernst 1986).

In South Carolina, individuals were found in upland refugia up to 49 m from the delineated wetland boundary (Buhlmann and Gibbons 2001).

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Trophic Strategy

Sternotherus oderatus is somewhat of a food generalist, as it is known to eat small amounts of plants, mollusks, small fish, insects, and even carrion. Foraging on the muddy bottom of streams or ponds is the chief way of collecting food (Whitfield 1984, Garrett and Barker 1987).

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Comments: Usually feeds in water on bottom; eats primarily aquatic invertebrates but also plants, carrion, fishes, and amphibian larvae. Small individuals eat mainly small aquatic insects, algae, carrion (Ernst and Barbour 1989).

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Food Habits

Sternotherus oderatus is somewhat of a food generalist, as it is known to eat small amounts of plants, mollusks, small fish, insects, and even carrion. Foraging on the muddy bottom of streams or ponds is the chief way of collecting food (Whitfield 1984, Garrett and Barker 1987).

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General Ecology

Population density was about 150/ha in Oklahoma, 24/ha in Pennsylvania (based on suitable habitat) (see Ernst 1986), 149/ha (16% juveniles) in Alabama, 188-194/ha in Virginia, 8-700/ha elsewhere (see Dodd, 1989, Brimleyana 15:47-56). In a 8.5-ha lake in Texas, 989 stinkpots were captured over a 5-year period (Swannack and Rose 2003).

In Virginia, annual survivorship (juveniles to adults) was 0.84-0.86 (Mitchell 1988). Longevity in nature may exceed 25 years (Ernst 1986).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Active in morning, evening, and night in warm weather; diurnal in cool weather. More diurnal in north. Generally inactive in cold winter months in north. Active April-October in north, most of year in south (reduced acitvity in winter)

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
54.8 years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
54.8 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 54.8 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

The female common musk turtle is known to dig shallow nests at the water's edge under rotting logs or dead leaves, and sometimes these turtles will nest two or more times a year. Communal nesting also occurs frequently within this species. The turtles mate underwater, and then the female lay one to nine eggs sometime between February and June. The hatchlings emerge 60 to 84 days later (Whitfield 1984, Garrett and Barker 1987, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
1277 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
1277 days.

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Eggs are laid February-July in south, May-August (peak in June) in north. May produce multiple clutches per year in some areas. Clutch size averages 2-3 in south, more than 3 in north. Eggs hatch August-September in south, late August-October in north. In Virginia, hatchlings emerged in year of egg deposition (Mitchell 1988). Possibly hatchlings overwinter in nest in some areas. Multiple females may nest in same site.

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The female common musk turtle is known to dig shallow nests at the water's edge under rotting logs or dead leaves, and sometimes these turtles will nest two or more times a year. Communal nesting also occurs frequently within this species. The turtles mate underwater, and then the female lay one to nine eggs sometime between February and June. The hatchlings emerge 60 to 84 days later (Whitfield 1984, Garrett and Barker 1987, Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
1277 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
1277 days.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sternotherus odoratus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Sternotherus oderatus is not endangered as it is one of the most widespread species and is common in most areas. The main reason for this might be that this turtle is a habitat and food generalist (Murphy 1967, Grzimek 1975, Whitfield 1984).

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
van Dijk, P.P.

Reviewer/s
Horne, B.D., Mittermeier, R.A., Philippen, H.-D., Quinn, H.R., Rhodin, A.G.J., Shaffer, H.B. & Vogt, R.C

Contributor/s
Flores-Villela, O.

Justification
A very widespread, adaptable and common species, which may have some marginal populations of local conservation interests (specifically the reputed Chihuahua, Mexico, and Canadian occurrences) but is in no way threatened in its existence. It is therefore listed as Least Concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Sternotherus oderatus is not endangered as it is one of the most widespread species and is common in most areas. The main reason for this might be that this turtle is a habitat and food generalist (Murphy 1967, Grzimek 1975, Whitfield 1984).

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Population

Population
Sternotherus odoratus is common to abundant in suitable habitat across its range, with reported densities ranging from 8-700 individuals per hectare, and 8.4 to 41.7 kg / ha biomass (review by Iverson and Meshaka 2006). The species is not considered to occur in Mexico.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
No significant human-induced mortality sources have been reported; it was considered 'the last turtle species to be negatively affected by environmental degradation' by Buhlmann et al. (2008) and it rarely ventures far from water thus road mortality is minimal; impacts of fisheries bycatch, if any, have not been recorded.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Canada: Sternotherus odoratus has a limited distribution area in Canada and is thus a species of conservation attention.

United States: Sternotherus odoratus is subject to a variety of State legislation and regulations. The species occurs in a large number of protected and managed areas.

Mexico: Information on habitat status at the Rio Sauz would be desirable, subsequently followed by an intensive survey for this species.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

This turtle is neither helpful or harmful to most of the human society, except for the fishermen. These turtles are not fun to find on the end of a fishing line, as they will secrete their strong-smelling musk quickly, and aggressively try to bite (Line 1998).

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This turtle is neither helpful or harmful to most of the human society, except for the fishermen. These turtles are not fun to find on the end of a fishing line, as they will secrete their strong-smelling musk quickly, and aggressively try to bite (Line 1998).

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Wikipedia

Sternotherus odoratus

Sternotherus odoratus is a species of small turtle native to southeastern Canada and much of the Eastern United States. It is also known as the common musk turtle or stinkpot due to its ability to release a foul musky odor from scent glands on the edge of its shell, possibly to deter predation.[4]

Description[edit]

Kinosternon odoratum bw.jpg
Musk turtle.jpg

Stinkpots are small black, grey or brown turtles with highly domed shells. They grow to approximately 5.1–14 cm (2.0–5.5 in) and average in weight at 603 g (1.329 lb).[5] They have long necks and rather short legs. The yellow lines on the neck are a good field marker, and often can be seen from above in swimming turtles. Males can usually be distinguished from females by their significantly longer tails and by the spike that protrudes at the end of the tail. The anal vent on the underside of the tail extends out beyond the plastron on males. Females are also typically larger than males. The head is vaguely triangular in shape, with a pointed snout and sharp beak, and yellow-green striping from the tip of the nose to the neck. Barbels are present on the chin and the throat. Their plastrons are relatively small, offering little protection for the legs, and have only one transverse, anterior hinge.[6] Algae often grow on their carapaces. Their tiny tongues are covered in bud-like papillae that allow them to respire underwater.[7]

Behavior[edit]

Musk turtles are almost entirely aquatic, spending the vast majority of their time in shallow, heavily vegetated waters of slow moving creeks, or in ponds. They typically only venture onto land when the female lays her eggs, or in some cases, to bask. They can climb sloping, partially submerged tree trunks or branches to as much as 2 m (6.6 ft) above the water surface, and have been known to drop into boats or canoes passing underneath.[6]Their defense mechanism is to excrete a musk scent from a small gland in their underside, hence the name musk turtle. This is used to scare away predators and natural enemies.

Diet[edit]

They are carnivorous, consuming a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates including crayfish, freshwater clams, snails, aquatic larvae, tadpoles and various insects. They will also eat fish and carrion. A hatchling's diet is much more carnivorous than an adult's, and may slowly acquire a taste for aquatic plants as the turtle matures. Wild turtles often will not hesitate to bite if harassed. A musk turtle's neck can extend as far as its hind feet; caution is required when handling one.

Habitat[edit]

This turtle is found in a variety of wetland habitats and littoral zones, particularly shallow watercourses with a slow current and muddy bottom.[8] Although they are more aquatic than some turtles, they are also capable of climbing, and may be seen basking on fallen trees and woody debris.[9] Fallen trees and coarse woody debris are known to be important components of wetland habitat, and may be particularly beneficial to basking turtles.[10] Like all turtles, they must nest on land, and shoreline real estate development is detrimental. They hibernate buried in the mud under logs, or in muskrat lodges.[11]

Reproduction[edit]

Breeding occurs in the spring, and females lay two to 9 elliptical, hard-shelled eggs in a shallow burrow or under shoreline debris. An unusual behavior is the tendency to share nesting sites; in one case there were 16 nests under a single log.[12] The eggs hatch in late summer or early fall. Egg predation is a major cause of mortality, as with many turtle species. In one Pennsylvania population, hatching success was only 15 percent, and predators alone destroyed 25 of 32 nests.[12] Hatchlings are usually less than one inch long and have a very ridged shell which will become less pronounced as they age and will eventually be completely smooth and domed. Their lifespan, as with most turtles, is quite long, with specimens in captivity being recorded at 50+ years of age.

View of the plastron

Geographic distribution[edit]

The common musk turtle ranges in southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and in the Eastern United States from southern Maine in the north, south through to Florida, and west to central Texas, with a disjunct population located in central Wisconsin.

Taxonomy[edit]

The species was first described by the French taxonomist Pierre André Latreille in 1801, from a specimen collected near Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, almost all turtles were classified in the genus Testudo, and he gave it the name Testudo odorata. In 1825, John Edward Gray created the genus Sternotherus to include species of musk turtle and it became Sternotherus odoratus. The species has been redescribed numerous times by many authors, leading to a large amount of confusion in its classification. To confuse it further, the differences between mud turtles and musk turtles are a point of debate, with some researchers considering them the same genus, Kinosternon.

Conservation[edit]

Though the common musk turtle holds no federal conservation status in the US and is quite common throughout most of its range, it has declined notably in some ares, and appears to be more sensitive than some native species to human degradation of wetlands.[13] It is listed as a threatened species in the state of Iowa. It is listed as a species at risk in Canada, and is protected by the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).[14] It is also protected under Ontario's endangered species act.[15] In this part of its range, only wetlands with minimal human impact have robust populations.[13] Road mortality of breeding females may be one of the problems associated with human development.

In captivity[edit]

Due to its small size, the common musk turtle generally makes a better choice for a pet turtle than other commonly available species, such as the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). Throughout their range, wild-caught specimens are commonly available, but the species is also frequently captive-bred specifically for the pet trade. (In the United States, USDA regulations ban the sale of turtles under four inches long as pets. This technically excludes all musk turtles.) They readily accept a diet of commercially available turtle pellets, algae wafers, and various insects, such as crickets, snails, mealworms, bloodworms, earthworms. A varied diet is essential to a captive turtle's health and it is important to note that it should not be fed with turtle pellets only. A captive turtle being fed a high protein diet may develop vitamin A and E deficiencies. Supplemental calcium in the form of commercial powders or a cuttle bone is also a must. Aquatic plants (water lettuce, duckweed, etc.) can also be provided, as some musk turtles prefer more vegetables in their diet than others. Though less sensitive to limited access to UV lighting, common musk turtles require ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) lighting as most other turtle species do for proper captive care. As bottom dwellers, musk turtles are rarely seen basking, but a basking area should still be provided.

References[edit]

  1. ^ P. P. van Dijk (2011). "Sternotherus odoratus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved June 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System). www.itis.gov.
  3. ^ Fritz & Havaš (2007)
  4. ^ Ernst et al. (1994), p. 148.
  5. ^ "Virginia Turtles – Average Adult Sizes, Virginia Size Records & Overall Size Records" (PDF). Virginia Herpetological Society. Retrieved June 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Conant (1975)
  7. ^ Matt Walker (May 20, 2010). "Turtle 'super tongue' lets reptile survive underwater". BBC News. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  8. ^ Ernst et al. (1994), pp. 139–140.
  9. ^ Ernst et al. (1994), p. 142.
  10. ^ Keddy (2010), p. 229.
  11. ^ Ernst et al. (1994), p. 143.
  12. ^ a b Ernst et al. (1994), p. 146.
  13. ^ a b DeCatanzaro & Chow-Fraser (2010)
  14. ^ "Eastern Musk Turtle". Species at Risk Register. Government of Canada. Retrieved June 7, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Eastern Musk Turtle". Ontario's Biodiversity: Species at Risk. Royal Ontario Museum. September 2009. 

Bibliography[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Traditionally recognized as monotypic, but mtDNA data indicate the presence of pronounced and hierarchical phylogeographic differentiation among regional populations (Florida and southern Georgia; Atlantic seaboard from Georgia to Virginia; all locales to the west); recognition of subspecies might be warranted if concordant patterns of variation in other characteristics (e.g., morphology) are found to exist (Walker et al. 1997, Walker and Avise 1998).

The genus Sternotherus was merged into the genus Kinosternon by Ernst and Barbour (1989) (based on protein electromorph data of Seidel et al. 1986). This change not adopted in subsequent taxonomic lists (King and Burke 1989, Collins 1990). However, Iverson (1991) evaluated protein and morphological data for kinosternine turtles and concluded that there presently exists no adequate basis for recognizing Sternotherus as a genus distinct from Kinosternon. Nevertheless, Ernst et al. (1994) treated Kinosternon and Sternotherus as distinct genera.

Crother et al. (2008) has changed the name from Common Map Turtle because of the possibility that the word "common" might be misinterpreted to imply abundance rather than to the fact that it has a broad geographic distribution.

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