Apalone ferox Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
Softshell turtles have very long necks, narrow heads, long, slender, snorkel-like noses and legs that look like flippers. As might be expected from their names, softshells have soft flexible shells that feel like leather.
The Florida softshell turtle can reach a maximum length of 50 cm (20 inches). The brown leathery top shell has many small knobs along the front edge behind the head. The head is dark and there is often a tallow stripe behind each eye. Females are much larger than males.
Photo Claire Sunquist ©
Softshells are often seen floating on the surface of lakes and ponds. Like the one in the photograph above, their shells are sometimes covered with algae and other aquatic vegetation.
These turtles have strong, knife-like mandibles that are almost as powerful as the jaws of a snapping turtle. Avoid handling them. They have extremely long necks and can reach around and deliver a nasty bite to a person picking them up.
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