Common musk turtle

  • Scientific name:Sternotherus odoratus
  • Size:baby
  • Breeding season:all year around
  • CITES:none


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Sternotherus odoratus is a species of small turtle in the family Kinosternidae. The species is native to southeastern Canada and much of the Eastern United States. It is also known commonly as the common musk turtle, eastern 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. This turtle is grouped in the same family as mud turtles.

The stinkpot is a small black, grey or brown turtle with a highly domed shell. It grows to a straight carapace length of approximately 5.1–14 cm (2.0–5.5 in) and averages in weight at 603 g (1.329 lb). It has a long neck 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. The plastron is relatively small, offering little protection for the legs, and has only one transverse, anterior hinge. Algae often grow on their carapaces. Their tiny tongues are covered in bud-like papillae that allow them to respire underwater.

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 its range, wild-caught specimens are commonly available, but the species is also frequently captive-bredspecifically for the pet trade. (In the United States, USDA regulations ban the sale of turtles under four inches long as pets. This technically excludes most musk turtles, as most specimens found are smaller than 4 inches.) It readily accepts a diet of commercially available turtle pellets, algae wafers, and various insects, such as crickets, snails, mealworms, bloodworms, earthworms.

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