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Musk and Mud Turtles – Introducing Five Interesting Species – Part 2

Loggerhead Musk Turtle HatchlingThe 26 Mud and Musk Turtle species (Family Kinosternidae and Staurotypidae) share a common body plan and general behaviors, yet show an astonishing range of adaptations to diet, habitat and predators.  Among them we find both North America’s smallest turtle and brutes with jaws capable of crushing a finger.  Very few receive attention from hobbyists or zoos, yet nearly all are hardy and can be bred in captivity.  I’ve had the good fortune of keeping 15 or so species, including my longest-lived pet, a 41 year-old Common Musk Turtle (please see Part 1)…following is an introduction to some unique species.

Note: All Mud and Musk Turtles can deliver painful and, in the case of the Mexican Giant Musk, dangerous bites.  Many calm down in captivity, but extreme caution is always necessary. Read More »

The Common Musk Turtle – My Choice for Perfect Pet Turtle, with Notes on Relatives

Frank’s musk turtleAs a boy working for an animal importer in NYC, I was much taken by the first hatchling Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) I encountered.  The minute, jet-black beast, much smaller than a baby Red-Eared Slider, was irresistible.  Last month that very same turtle turned 46 (please see photo).  So I am, of course, partial to the species, but there are actually very good reasons to keep this fascinating turtle and its relatives.


This turtle rarely exceeds 4 inches in length (record: 5 3/8 inches); males average 3 inches.  The highly-domed carapace is olive-brown to black and often algae-coated.  The plastron is small, leaving a good deal of flesh exposed.  The skin is gray to black, and there are two yellow stripes on the head and a pair of sensory barbels (fleshy protuberances) on the chin and throat.  Read More »

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