The Florida Softshell Turtle, Apalone ferox, is a species of softshell turtle native to the eastern United States, mainly found in Florida, but it also ranges to South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.
The Florida softshell turtle has a dark brown to olive green shell and a lighter colored underside. They have a very long neck, an elongated head, with a long snorkel-like nose. They can grow to more than 25 inches, making them the largest of all soft shell turtles.
The Florida softshell turtle gets its name from the leathery skin that covers their shell. This skin-covered shell is an adaptation that allows softshells to remain underwater for long periods of time, as they can take in oxygen and rid their bodies of carbon dioxide through the blood-vessel rich skin while they are submerged. The downside of this amazing adaptation is that when out of the water, bodies lose water faster than the regular bony-shelled turtles, and dehydration is a serious threat. This ability to "breathe" through their skin also makes softshells more sensitive than other turtles to water-borne chemical pollutants.
Florida softshell turtles are almost completely aquatic, only leaving the water to bask or to lay their eggs. They live in ponds, streams, rivers, lakes and swamps, where they rely on their shell for camouflage and bury themselves in sandy and muddy bottoms, with only their snout exposed. They capture their prey by shooting out their long necks and snatching prey by surprise. Florida softshell turtles are highly carnivorous, eating fish, crabs, crayfish, snails, insects, and frogs. This species usually very shy around humans, but when they feel threatened they will use their strong jaws to bite and defend themselves.
Bubba, the resident Florida softshell turtle at Lake Denton