The stinkpot turtle has a shell on its back like all turtles which is oval in shape and highly domed. This is colored olive brown or dark grey.
Often the shell is covered with algae which provides additional camouflage.
Common musk turtles have a small lower shell which has a single hinge and this can partially close so the turtle can protect itself.
The face features a pair of bright stripes running beneath the eyes.
Extending from the chin and throat are a pair of sensory extensions known as barbels.
Their body measures up to 12cm (5in) long with an average weight of 0.5-0.9kg (1-2lbs). Both genders are similar in size.
The common musk turtle is a carnivore. Their diet includes insects, crayfish, clams, tadpoles, along with fish and their eggs. Small amounts of plant matter such as algae may be eaten by some individuals. Carrion may also be consumed.
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The common musk turtle is found in North America. Here they can be found in the Eastern and Central United States along with southwestern Canada.
They make their home in freshwater environments as they cannot tolerate saltwater. Potential habitats include rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps and streams. Common musk turtles show a preference for slow-moving water.
Most of their time is spent in the water with the species rarely coming to land.
Breeding occurs in the spring and fall. Breeding is triggered by shorter day lengths. Females may produce as many six clutches each season.
Females lay their eggs in a shallow nest or under debris on the rivers edge. Each clutch may include two to nine eggs which have a hard shell.
These eggs incubate for 60-85 days before they will hatch.
Sexual maturity is tied to carapace length but typically occurs between 2 and 4 years old with males maturing earlier.
Most of their movement is undertaken by walking along the bottom of the stream or pond rather than swimming.
The common musk turtle is primarily active by day but they may also hunt during the night.
Basking is rare for this species and if it is undertaken it most often occurs on a log overhanging the river.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the common musk turtle include birds of prey such as the bald eagle or red-shouldered hawk, American alligators and fish. Eggs are also predated by racoons and skunks.
When threatened these animals will bite and scratch. As a final resort they will spray musk from glands on their body. This foul smelling odor helps to scare away. predators.
These animals are collected for the pet trade. Their small size makes them a popular pet. Other threats include habitat loss, an increase in predators and water pollution.
This species is also known as the stinkpot due to the foul odor they can create from their musk glands. Another alternative name is the marsh turtle or moon turtle.
The species portion of their scientific name odoratus comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to have an odor.’
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By Uba~itwiki at Italian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46411204
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