Spring Break 2018: Apalone ferox, 14 March 2018

Apalone ferox, the Florida softshell turtle;
Collier county, Florida (14 March 2018).
Series: Spring Break 2018.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Florida softshell (Apalone ferox) is by no means conventionally “beautiful” or “pretty,” yet I still find them to be extraordinarily attractive and awesome organisms at first sight. Unfortunately, that “first sight” is often in the middle of a heavily travelled road. Unlike other aquatic turtle species, softshells spend the vast majority of their time in the water; they don’t really lay out on land or on perches to bask for extended periods of time. If and when you see a Florida softshell on land, it’s most likely trying to move from one body of water to another or looking for a place to lay a clutch of eggs.

We came across this young adult tuckered out on an open, busy road in the Big Cypress area. Water to the left, and water to the right, but the turtle was, for some reason, tuckered down defensively in harm’s way. Though best practice is arguably to let the turtle figure it out for itself, we decided to help this one get off the road. There was a stream of cars coming in the turtle’s lane, and I don’t think it would’ve turned out well for the wee anapsid (if you still consider turtles to be an Anapsid). Once the turtle was near the waterline, it shot off like a rocket, as they often do, and disappeared into the deep, adjacent canal-line.

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